U.S. v. Layton

Decision Date16 August 1988
Docket NumberNos. 87-1071,87-2576,s. 87-1071
Citation855 F.2d 1388
Parties26 Fed. R. Evid. Serv. 988 UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Laurence John LAYTON, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit

Robert R. Bryan and Thomas W. Jackson, San Francisco, Cal., for defendant-appellant.

Sanford Svetcov, Asst. U.S. Atty., Chief, Appellate Section, San Francisco, Cal., for plaintiff-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

Before ALARCON, HALL and KOZINSKI, Circuit Judges.

ALARCON, Circuit Judge:

Laurence John Layton (Layton) appeals from the final judgment entered following his conviction on charges stemming from the November 1978 killing of Congressman Leo J. Ryan at the Port Kaituma airstrip in the Republic of Guyana. Layton challenges his conviction on numerous grounds, each of which is addressed below.

In a separate appeal, Layton challenges the district court's denial of his motion under 28 U.S.C. Sec. 2255 to vacate and set aside his conviction. In his motion, Layton argued that he had received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial, in violation of the sixth amendment.

We ordered the consolidation of Layton's two appeals. We address each in this opinion. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm both the judgment of conviction and the district court's denial of Layton's motion under Sec. 2255.


The Peoples Temple was a religious organization composed primarily of American citizens. In 1977, under the leadership of Jim Jones, the Peoples Temple established a settlement of more than 1,000 people in a remote jungle area of the Republic of Guyana. The settlement was known as Jonestown. Layton was a member of the Temple and resided at Jonestown.

On November 1, 1978, Congressman Leo J. Ryan, U.S. Representative from the 11th Congressional District of California, notified Jones that Ryan would be visiting Jonestown to investigate allegations of poor living conditions and mistreatment of residents. Jones opposed Ryan's visit and announced his opposition in several tape-recorded speeches delivered to the Jonestown community in the days preceding Ryan's arrival. In certain of the speeches, Jones intimated that Ryan would suffer physical harm if he insisted on entering Jonestown. Jones also prepared and circulated among the Jonestown residents a petition opposing Ryan's visit. Layton signed the petition.

On November 17, 1978, Ryan and his party, which included media representatives and concerned relatives of Jonestown residents, arrived in Jonestown. On November 17 and November 18, Ryan met with many of the residents. Some of them requested assistance in leaving Jonestown. In the afternoon of November 18, the members of Ryan's party and the departing residents boarded a truck to be transported to the Port Kaituma airstrip, approximately six miles from Jonestown. At about that time, Layton was seen conversing with Jones. Layton then embraced Jones, obtained a rain poncho, and announced to the departing group that he, Layton, also wished to leave Jonestown. The departing group expressed concern that Layton was merely feigning his desire to leave and that his true intent was to harm those departing from the settlement. Layton was searched and no weapon was found. Ryan then permitted Layton to join the group on the truck.

At about this time, a Jonestown resident attacked Ryan with a knife. Ryan escaped without injury. Ryan had been planning to remain in Jonestown for another night. After the knife attack, he decided to leave with the other members of his party.

The truckload of people departed for the Port Kaituma airstrip. As the truck approached the gate to Jonestown, Joe Wilson boarded. Wilson, a leader of the Jonestown security force, was armed with a gun. En route to the airstrip, Layton talked with another member of Jonestown's security force, who was also a passenger on the truck. Layton himself had been a member of the security force and had been trained in the use of handguns. The security force was under Jones' control.

Ryan had requested two planes to transport the departing group from Port Kaituma to Georgetown, Guyana. The two planes--a nineteen-seat Otter and a six-seat Cessna--landed at the airstrip about 20 minutes after the arrival of the truck carrying the Ryan party.

Ryan's aide assigned seats on the two planes. Layton insisted on being seated in the plane that was scheduled to depart first, the small Cessna.

Prior to boarding the Cessna, Layton was seen conversing with Joe Wilson. Wilson placed his hand underneath the rain poncho Layton was wearing. Ryan and several others began searching those waiting to board the Cessna. Layton left the line and boarded the plane without being searched. Layton was then told to leave the plane and to submit to a search. After first protesting that he had already been searched, Layton complied with the direction. Because no weapons were found on Layton's person, he was permitted to reboard the Cessna.

When boarding of the Cessna was completed, the airplane taxied down the runway in preparation for take-off. Boarding of the Otter was still in progress. A tractor-trailer carrying a group of Peoples Temple members drove in front of the Cessna and headed toward the Otter. The people on the tractor-trailer began shooting at the Otter. The bullets struck passengers seated inside the plane as well as those waiting to board. Ryan, who was standing outside the Otter, was killed in the attack. Richard Dwyer, United States Deputy Chief of Mission to Guyana, was wounded.

When Layton heard the shots being fired at the Otter, he yelled at the pilot of the Cessna to proceed with the take-off. Layton then pulled a gun hidden between his legs and shot two people seated near him. He fired the weapon at the chest of a third person but the gun misfired. Two passengers wrestled with Layton and disarmed him. Two Guyanese civilians then took Layton to the constabulary at Port Kaituma, where Guyanese officials took him into custody.

In an indictment filed October 9, 1980, Layton was charged with conspiring to kill a member of Congress (Ryan), in violation of 18 U.S.C. Sec. 351(d); aiding and abetting in the killing of a member of Congress, in violation of 18 U.S.C. Secs. 2 and 351(a); conspiring to murder an internationally protected person (Dwyer), in violation of 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1117; and aiding and abetting in the attempted murder of an internationally protected person, in violation of 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1116(a). At the time the indictment was filed, Layton was being held in custody in Guyana, in connection with charges filed against him in that country. He returned to the United States, in the company of FBI agents, on or about November 20, 1980.

Trial commenced on July 21, 1981. A mistrial was declared on September 26, 1981, when the jury announced that it was unable to reach a verdict. Following two interlocutory appeals by the Government, a second trial commenced on September 18, 1986. On December 1, 1986, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on all counts. On March 3, 1987, Layton was sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment on counts 1, 3, and 4, and to life in prison on count 2.

Additional facts are recited where appropriate in Part III infra.


The district court's jurisdiction is addressed in Part III(A) infra. We have jurisdiction over Layton's appeal from the final judgment entered in this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1291 (1982).

A. Did The District Court Have Subject Matter Jurisdiction To Try The Charged Offenses?

Layton filed a motion in the district court for dismissal based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The district court concluded that it had jurisdiction over the charges contained in the indictment. United States v. Layton, 509 F.Supp. 212 (N.D.Cal.1981). Layton appealed from the district court's ruling. We dismissed the appeal as premature, indicating that Layton could challenge subject matter jurisdiction on appeal from final judgment. United States v. Layton, 645 F.2d 681 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 452 U.S. 972, 101 S.Ct. 3128, 69 L.Ed.2d 984 (1981). Layton now renews the arguments he presented to the district court. We review a district court's assumption of jurisdiction de novo. United States v. Hill, 719 F.2d 1402, 1404 (9th Cir.1983).

For the following reasons, we hold that the district court properly exercised subject matter jurisdiction over each count in the indictment.

1. Counts One and Two

Count One charged Layton with conspiracy to kill Congressman Ryan, in violation of 18 U.S.C. Sec. 351(d). Count Two charged Layton with aiding and abetting in the killing of Ryan, in violation of 18 U.S.C. Secs. 351(a) and 2. Sections 351(a) and (d) provide:

(a) Whoever kills any individual who is a Member of Congress ... shall be punished as provided by sections 1111 and 1112 of this title.

* * * (d) If two or more persons conspire to kill ... any individual designated in subsection (a) of this section and one or more of such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy, each shall be punished (1) by imprisonment for any term of years or for life or (2) by death or imprisonment for any term of years or for life, if death results to such individual.

Layton argues that Sec. 351 cannot be applied in this case because the acts in question occurred outside the United States and Congress did not intend Sec. 351 to be applied extraterritorially.

Where the language of a criminal statute does not indicate whether the statute is to be applied to extraterritorial conduct, resolution of the question "depends upon the purpose of Congress as evinced by the description and nature of the crime." United States v. Bowman, 260 U.S. 94, 97, 43 S.Ct. 39, 40-41, 67 L.Ed. 149 (1922). When a statute describes a crime which is not...

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