United States v. Shi
United States v. Shi, 525 F.3d 709 (9th Cir. 2008) is a case involving piracy on the high seas. The case held that United States could try foreign nationals on foreign-flagged vessels for crimes committed on the high seas, outside the territory of the United States.
Incident and capture of the 'Full Means II'
A national of the People's Republic of China, Shi Lei (施 雷), the cook of the Full Means II (富明二號), a Taiwanese fishing vessel registered in the Republic of the Seychelles and owned by Taipei-based FCF Fishery Company (豐群水產股份有限公司), had been demoted to deckhand. He had demanded to go home to China but was refused. In retaliation, he stabbed and killed Captain Chen Chung-She (陳忠社 Chén Zhōngshè) and first mate Li Da Feng (李大丰/李大豐) when the ship was sailing in international waters off the coast of Hawaii in March 2002. After killing the men Shi ordered the second mate to “drive the ship,” and ordered the other crewmembers to throw the captain’s body overboard. He allegedly stated that he would kill anyone who disobeyed him and refused to let his crewmates use the radio. He controlled the ship for two days, setting a course for China and threatening to scuttle the vessel if his instructions were not obeyed.
However, on March 16, 2002, the crew overpowered Shi, and imprisoned him in a storage compartment. The crew then set a course for Hawaii, but did not contact the ship’s owners, apparently because none of them knew how to operate the radio. After several days of silence, the owners notified the U.S. Coast Guard that the ship was missing and requested its assistance in recovery.
Five days after Shi had seized the ship, a Coast Guard cutter Kiska intercepted the ship approximately 60 miles from Hilo, Hawaii. Over the next two days, Shi, who was still imprisoned by the crew in the storage compartment, spoke to a Coast Guard officer and admitted to having killed the two men. FBI agents then boarded the ship and arrested Shi; he was arrested for violating 18 U.S.C. § 2280 which prohibits acts of violence that endanger maritime navigation.
Trial and decision
The Seychelles waived its jurisdiction. Instead the United States federal government prosecuted Shi.
Shi was charged with one count of seizing control over a ship by force, and two counts of performing an act of violence likely to endanger the safety of the ship. After a jury trial before U.S. District Judge Helen W. Gillmor of the District of Hawaii, Shi was convicted and sentenced to 36 years in prison.
Shi appealed, challenging, among other things, the district court’s jurisdiction. However, in 2008 the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in an opinion by Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain, rejected Shi’s claims that he cannot be tried in the USA because piracy is subject to universal jurisdiction, and because Sec. 2280 implements the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation — to which the United States is a party – which expressly provides notice that prohibited conduct may be prosecuted by any state signatory.
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- "FDO activity" (PDF). January 2003. Retrieved May 5, 2009.
- "Inmate Locator." Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved on December 14, 2015. Enter the name "Lei Shi" and/or the BOP number.
- "United States v. Shi, 396 F. Supp. 2d 1132 (D. Haw. 2005)" - Justia
- "United States Court of Appeals,Ninth Circuit. UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Lei SHI, Defendant-Appellant. No. 06-10389. Decided: April 24, 2008 - Available at FindLaw
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