March 31, 2014 – Francis Grady, who in 2012 set fire to a Planned Parenthood in Grand Chute, Wisconsin and was convicted on arson and intentional property damage charges, recently lost his appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.
An anti-abortionist, Grady admitted the crime after breaking a window at the Planned Parenthood facility, pouring gasoline inside, and setting it ablaze. Grady had sought the help of a third-party, who notified police when news of the arson came to light. After arrest, Grady told police he intended to damage the property with his arsonist action.
Under federal law, anyone who “maliciously” damages real or personal property with fire or explosives faces a prison term between five and 20 years if the property is used in activities affecting interstate or foreign commerce.
At trial, the parties disputed the definition of “maliciously” for jury instruction purposes. Grady appealed his ultimate conviction, arguing the district court improperly instructed the jury on the definition of “maliciously” as used in the federal arson statute.
But in U.S. v. Grady, No. 13-1390 (March 27, 2014), a three-judge panel for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s jury instruction.
Neither the statute nor the Seventh Circuit Pattern Jury Instructions defined the term “maliciously” as used in the federal arson statute, 18 U.S.C. section 844(i).
The district court accepted the government’s proposed definition: “[acting] intentionally or with deliberate disregard of the likelihood that damage or injury will result,” a definition found in the Eleventh and Fourth Circuit Pattern Jury Instructions.
Grady pushed a definition found in the Eighth Circuit’s Model Criminal Jury Instructions, which defined “maliciously” as “intentionally caus[ing] damage without just cause or reason.” Apparently, Grady wanted to argue that he had a defensible "reason" for his actions and thus intentionally setting fire to the building was not done "maliciously.".
However, the panel concluded that the district court “acted well within its discretion” to omit “just cause or reason” from the jury instruction defining “maliciously.” The panel noted that Grady never argued that his actions were justified, and a “jury instruction should be given only when it addresses an issue reasonably raised by the evidence.”