Case 1 Facts Marcus Barrington, Christopher Jacquette, and Lawrence Secrease were undergraduate students at Florida A&M University (FAMU).
Facts Marcus Barrington, Christopher Jacquette, and Lawrence Secrease were undergraduate students at Florida A&M University (FAMU). They concocted a scheme to access FAMU’s internet-based grading system. They went to the registrar’s office and surreptitiously installed keylogger software on FAMU’s computers. The keylogger software recorded the keystrokes made by registrar employees as they signed into their computers, capturing their usernames and passwords. That data was automatically transmitted to various email accounts, including Barrington’s personal email address. With the usernames and passwords, Barrington and the others, using their own computers and FAMU’s computers, accessed FAMU’s grading system and changed course grades for themselves and other students. Barrington received approximately 30–35 grade changes, Jacquette approximately 43, and Secrease approximately 36. Ultimately, the group made in excess of 650 unauthorized grade changes for at least 90 students, including fraternity brothers. Eventually, a professor uncovered the scheme, and the FAMU police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were notified. Barrington, Jacquette, and Secrease were indicted and charged with the federal crimes of conspiring to commit wire fraud using a protected computer, fraud using a protected computer, and identity theft. Jacquette and Secrease entered into a plea agreement and were each sentenced to 22 months in prison. Barrington went to trial and denied involvement in the scheme. Jacquette was a witness against Barrington at Barrington’s trial. Barrington was convicted on all counts and was sentenced to 7 years in prison. Barrington appealed his conviction and sentence. Issue Was Barrington guilty of the crimes charged and was the prison sentence appropriate? Language of the Court There was an adequate basis for the jury to find that Barrington actually committed the extrinsic acts. Jacquette’s uncorroborated testimony was sufficient, since he had personal knowledge of Barrington’s conduct. We have no hesitation in concluding that the Government’s theory rested on a legally cognizable theory of conspiracy to defraud by wire and computer. The evidence was sufficient to support Barrington’s convictions for aggravated identity theft. Barrington’s lack of remorse, coupled with his false trial testimony, obstructive conduct during the investigation, and what the district court described as his “arrogance and contempt for the law,” certainly justified the sentence imposed. Decision The U.S. court of appeals affirmed Barrington’s conviction and prison sentence. Critical Legal Thinking Questions Should Barrington have entered into a plea deal before trial? Did Jacquette act ethically by being a witness against Barrington? Was the 7-year prison sentence warranted?
Facts After substantial research and expenditure of money and resources, Myriad Genetics, Inc. (Myriad), discovered the precise location and sequence of two naturally occurring segments of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) known as BRCA1 and BRCA2. Mutations in these genes can dramatically increase a female’s risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. The average American woman has a 12 to 13 percent risk of developing breast cancer, but in a woman with the genetic mutations discovered by Myriad, the risk can range between 50 and 80 percent for breast cancer and between 20 and 50 percent for ovarian cancer. Before Myriad’s discovery of
the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, scientists knew that heredity played a role in establishing a woman’s risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, but they did not know which genes were associated with those cancers. For women who are tested and found to have the dangerous mutations of BRCA1 and BRCA2, medical measures can be taken to reduce the risks of breast and ovarian cancer developing. Myriad obtained a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office based on its discovery. The Association for Molecular Pathology sued Myriad, seeking a declaration that Myriad’s patent was invalid. The U.S. district court held that Myriad’s claim was invalid because it covered a product of nature and was therefore not patentable. The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals held that the isolated DNA was patent eligible. The U.S. Supreme Court granted review. Issue Is a naturally occurring segment of DNA patent eligible? Language of the U.S. Supreme Court Laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas are not patentable. It is undisputed that Myriad did not create or alter any of the genetic information encoded in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. The location and order of the nucleotides existed in nature before Myriad found them. Nor did Myriad create or alter the genetic structure of DNA. Instead, Myriad’s principal contribution was uncovering the precise location and genetic sequence of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Myriad did not create anything. To be sure, it found an important and useful gene, but separating that gene from its surrounding genetic material is not an act of invention. Decision The U.S. Supreme Court held that a naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals on this issue. Critical Legal Thinking Questions Will the Supreme Court’s decision affect the amount of research that is conducted to find naturally occurring disease-causing DNA sequences? Should Myriad be compensated by the government for its research costs?
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