CORE CRIMINAL LAW SUBJECTS: Crimes: Article 134 - Threat, Communicating


United States v. Brown, 65 M.J. 227 (the offense of communicating a threat requires the government to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused communicated certain language expressing a present determination or intent to wrongfully injure the person, property, or reputation of another person, presently or in the future, that the communication was made known to that person or to a third person, that the communication was wrongful, and that, under the circumstances, the conduct of the accused was to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces or was of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces).


(examination of threats under Article 134, UCMJ, must pay due regard to any concretely expressed contingency associated with a threat, while remaining aware that all communication takes place within a context that can be determinative of meaning; context gives meaning to literal statements). 


(the words communicated in an alleged threat under Article 134, UCMJ, certainly matter because they are the starting point in analyzing a possible threat; but words are used in context; divorcing them from their surroundings and their impact on the intended subject is illogical and unnatural; legal analysis of a threat must take into account both the words used and the surrounding circumstances; without such a subtle examination, absurd results might arise, defeating both the text and purpose of the communicating a threat offense outlined in the MCM under Article 134, UCMJ).


(the evidence in this case in the form of a combination of words and circumstances was sufficient to establish that the accusedís statement to the mother of his son, that he would kill her if the son were not present with her, was a threat for the purposes of a conviction for communicating a threat under Article 134, UCMJ, even though the son was present with the mother such that the accusedís declaration was contingent, where the accused had never made such a statement before, he made the statement within minutes of a violent outburst, and he and the sonís mother had a substantial history of violence and heated exchanges; viewing these facts -- the words communicated and the context within which the statement was made -- in the light most favorable to the prosecution, it is clear that a rational trier of fact could have found each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt; the accused expressed an intent to wrongfully injure the mother of his son, the statement was made known to her, the statement was wrongful, and the statement was manifestly prejudicial to the good order and discipline of the armed forces or was of the nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces).

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