Evidence

The Federal Docket

United States v. Thaddeus Beaulieu (5th Cir. August 2020)

The Fifth Circuit vacated a defendant’s felony criminal contempt conviction due to prosecutorial misconduct when the AUSA expressed personal opinion on the merits of the case, made arguments based on facts not in evidence during the trial, and told the jury that any verdict other than guilty would disrespect the judge and the court. The Court held that the district court abused its discretion in entering the contempt conviction because the inappropriate remarks were textbook prosecutorial misconduct and denied defendant his due process.

United States v. Michael Heinrich (3rd Cir. June 2020)

The Third Circuit vacated a defendant’s conviction and remanded the case to the district court for an explicit ruling and reasonings on whether to exclude the defendant’s proffered expert evidence under Rule 403. The Court recognized its authority to conduct a de novo balancing test but held that remand was more appropriate where there was no record regarding the judge’s reasoning, the judge had not issued a formal ruling (instead having a law clerk inform the parties of the judge’s intent), and a trial judge is better positioned to conduct the Rule 403 balancing test.

United States v. Jason Harriman (8th Cir. August 2020)

The Eighth Circuit upheld a defendant’s conviction of murder-for-hire, denying entrapment as an affirmative defense under the de novo standard of review because the defendant did not produce sufficient evidence of inducement. The Court also affirmed the district court’s denial of motions for new counsel and new trial, holding the proper standard of review is for abuse of discretion.

United States v. Steven Deason (11th Cir. July 2020)

The Eleventh Circuit upheld a conviction for attempted online enticement of a minor and attempted transfer of obscene matter to a minor, holding that officers did not err in failing to advise the defendant of his Miranda rights where he was informed that he was not under arrest and could ask the officers to leave and because he his statements were voluntary. The Court also held that testimony describing an allegedly obscene video and corresponding screenshots are a sufficient substitute to introducing the videos in their entirety.

United States v. Stephen Chalker (11th Cir. July 2020)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the defendant’s conviction for healthcare fraud, holding that there was sufficient evidence based on testimony regarding “red flags” at the defendant’s pharmacy, including patients from out of state, unrealistically high prices, and discrepancies in billing and inventory. The Court also rejected the defendant’s challenges to lay witness testimony from patients stating they received medication that they did not need and held that the Government replacing its expert did not prejudice the defendant where the substance of the testimony stayed the same.

United States v. David Pon (11th Cir. June 2020)

Evidence/Expert Testimony – Expert testimony discussing a theory that lacks sufficient testing, known or potential error rates, control standards, acceptance among the science community, and a connection between the theory and the underlying research is sufficiently unreliable to be excluded. Further, a peer-reviewed paper mentioning the theory is insufficient alone to prove reliability. Evidence/Rebuttal – …

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United States v. Mikel Clotaire (11th Cir. June 2020)

The Court affirmed the defendant’s convictions for identity theft and access device fraud. The Court affirmed the trial court’s admission of photographic stills from ATM video surveillance, holding that they were non-testimonial business records. The trial court also did not err in allowing lay witness identification, expert witness testimony, or the admission of the defendant’s mugshot where there was no indication of his prior criminal history.

United States v. Darius Caldwell (11th Cir. June 2020)

The Court affirmed the defendant’s conviction for armed bank robbery and related firearm charges, holding that the a trial court’s admission of unduly suggestive out-of-court identifications is not reversible error where the identification is otherwise reliable, there was sufficient evidence that the bank was federally insured, and new DNA testimony regarding deviations between the witness’s testimony and the FBI’s guidelines on DNA evidence would not likely change the outcome of the trial.

United States v. Michael Pedro Andres (11th Cir. June 2020)

The Court held that the district court did not err in refusing to consider the defendant’s untimely motion to suppress, since the defendant’s failure was based on a strategic decision. Moreover, the sentencing court did not err in refusing to grant a downward departure for acceptance of responsibility where the defendant challenge his factual guilt throughout the proceedings and at trial.

United States v. Surmondrea McGregor (11th Cir. June 2020)

The Court affirmed the defendant’s convictions for unlawful possession of unauthorized access devices and aggravated identity fraud, holding that it was not an abuse of discretion for the court to admit evidence of a firearm owned by the defendant. The evidence was relevant to the defendant’s possession of the unauthorized access devices because the firearm was found within close proximity of the access devices and within the same small area, and the probative value outweighed any undue prejudice, especially since the government did not indicate to the jury that the firearm was unlawfully owned.

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