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United States v. Russell

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Brief Fact Summary. The Respondent, Richard Russell (the “Respondent”), manufactured methamphetamine using an essential chemical provided by an undercover federal agent. The chemical is difficult to acquire, and without the chemical it is impossible to manufacture the drug.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. In order to determine whether the defense of entrapment is applicable, a subjective test should be applied that focuses on the intentions and conduct of the defendant.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

The defense of entrapment, the Court explained, was not intended to give the federal judiciary a chancellor's foot veto over law enforcement practices of which it did not approve.

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Facts. The Respondent, together with the help of two other men and the undercover agent, manufactured methamphetamine. The undercover agent provided a key ingredient, propanone, that was required to complete the manufacturing. The Respondent was able to acquire propanone without the agent, but he still accepted the agent’s offer of the propanone in exchange for half of the product. The Respondent conceded that they would likely have made the drug without the agent’s assistance, but the government’s conduct should be the test to determine entrapment. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit agreed with the Respondent.

Discussion. The dissent notes that a defendant that has a prior record of poor conduct is at a disadvantage when an official attempts to entrap them. But an objective test of the government’s conduct may not consider the unique circumstances of every case. There are other instances, such as when deciding if permission was given to search a premises by someone with controlling authority, where the emphasis is on the conduct of the officer.

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