This case is enjoined to United States v. Gary, although being argued separately, regarding whether someone can be convicted of felony possession if they didn’t know they had been convicted of a felony, and whether they have a right to be retried if they plead, but didn’t know they were pleading guilty to a felony.
Gregory Greer was feeling especially horny one night, and so he went looking for a woman he could hire to be his girlfriend for a period of time. Greer, not being the sharpest knife in the drawer, walked right up to cops running a prostitution sting, and it took him a second to realize these were not the droids he was looking for.
Once he figured out that these were the fuzz, and not girlfriends for hire, he bolted down the stairs, hoping he could outrun them and get away. It gets worse for Greer though, he had a stolen Colt .45 on his dumb ass (not the shitty ass beer, but a gun). It either fell, or he threw it as he was running the stairs. Cops saw it, and of course caught Greer, so they charged his dumb ass with felony possession, since he had like 73 million counts of burglary on his record.
Greer was convicted by a jury, but that jury was not asked to determine whether Greer would have known if he was a felon, and thus violating felony possession laws at the time. So even though it’s plainly obvious Greer knew he was a fucking felon, the jury wasn’t aware he had to know, and thus wouldn’t have taken it into account when convicting him.
So Greer’s counsel is colorfully trying to invalidate his verdict by arguing had the jury known they needed to prove he knew, they might not have convicted, and we’ll never know because they weren’t told. So the only remedy is a retrial. Fucking creative, I’ll give them that.
In a unanimous decision, SCOTUS told Greer, while his argument was creative, it was ultimately shit. They ruled that an appellate court reviewing a claim of “plain error” by a lower court, can consider any factors available to them, and not just the trial record in question. As such, they determined that while a plain error may have been made, the error didn’t alter his outcome, if you look at his case on the whole. Ultimately, it was on his dumb ass during the original trial, to present evidence then that he didn’t know he was a felon. Since he didn’t, he’s the one who fucked up here.
Hear oral arguments or read about the case here.