United States v. Tucker

Case: 21-30194 Document: 00516445331 Page: 1 Date Filed: 08/24/2022 United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit United States Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit FILED No. 21-30194 August 24, 2022 Lyle W. Cayce Clerk United States of America, Plaintiff—Appellee, versus Robert Earl Tucker, Jr., Defendant—Appellant. Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana USDC No. 3:20-CR-43-1 Before Willett, Engelhardt, and Wilson, Circuit Judges. Don R. Willett, Circuit Judge: We withdraw our prior opinion, 33 F.4th 739, and issue the following substitute opinion. Robert Earl Tucker, Jr., was found guilty of three counts of making false statements to a federally licensed firearms dealer in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(6) and two counts of possession in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(4). Tucker’s pro se appeal raises a host of issues, but we need only Case: 21-30194 Document: 00516445331 Page: 2 Date Filed: 08/24/2022 No. 21-30194 address one: whether his convictions were supported by sufficient evidence. They were not. We therefore REVERSE Tucker’s convictions and VACATE his sentence. I First the facts. Over a decade ago, Tucker was involuntarily transported to the emergency room under an order for protective custody issued by local law enforcement. A doctor at the hospital concluded that Tucker presented a danger to himself and others. So the doctor issued a physician emergency certificate that authorized Tucker’s involuntarily hospitalization for up to 15 days. Tucker again found himself in hot water two weeks after release. At the request of Tucker’s mother, 1 the Morehouse Parish coroner issued a new order for protective custody so that yet another doctor could “determine if [Tucker] should be voluntarily admitted, admitted by emergency certificate, admitted as a non-contested admission, or discharged.” Another emergency room doctor determined that Tucker was “in need of immediate psychiatric treatment” because he posed a danger to himself and others. That doctor issued a new physician emergency certificate, and Tucker was again hospitalized. During this 13-day period of treatment, Tucker was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and prescribed medications. Fast forward to 2019. Tucker bought a pistol from a firearms dealer in Baton Rouge. How? Well, Tucker stated on the ATF form that he had 1 Tucker’s mother, with whom he lived, reported that he (1) was recently released from involuntary hospitalization, (2) had “become angry,” (3) would “rant[] about stuff,” (4) “wrecked his vehicle but refuses to tell what happened or can’t remember,” and (5) “refuses meds or help.” 2 Case: 21-30194 Document: 00516445331 Page: 3 Date Filed: 08/24/2022 No. 21-30194 neither “been adjudicated as a mental defective” nor “committed to a mental institution.” Tucker received his firearm several days later. Not too long afterward, law enforcement detained Tucker—unrelated to his previous purchase—after someone identified him as a suspect in an active-shooter investigation at a Walmart. Police discovered that Tucker possessed a loaded firearm and an extra magazine. ATF joined the ensuing interrogation. At one point, Tucker reported that he had been hospitalized and held for a 72-hour observation after his …

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