The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned the conviction of a man who fatally shot a police officer who discovered him planning a bank robbery with four other people in a Florida cemetery.

The court overturned the conviction of Charles Fowler for the 1998 shooting of Haines City (Fla.) Police Officer Todd Horner. Fowler was convicted of violating a federal witness tampering statute of preventing Officer Horner from communicating with a federal officer.

Fowler and several other men met on March 3, 1998, to plan a robbery of a Florida bank. Officer Horner approached a suspicious vehicle at about 6:40 a.m. After asking four subjects to exit the vehicle at gunpoint, one man distracted Officer Horner, while a fifth subject hiding in a nearby orange grove attacked him from behind. The men disarmed the officer.

Fowler then said, "Now we can't walk away from this thing." He then shot the officer in the back of the head.

In his majority opinion, Justice Breyer wrote that the government didn't prove Fowler's intent to prevent the communication. In his dissent, Justice Scalia wrote that the government needs only prove a "reasonable likelihood" that Officer Horner would have communicated information about Fowler's criminal activities to federal law enforcement.

The case is Fowler v. United States, 10-5443.

By Paul Clinton

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