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Jury Instructions

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United States v. Juan Solano (2nd Cir. July 2020)

The Second Circuit reversed a defendant’s conviction. The defendant testified at trial, and the district court plainly erred in instructing the jury that any witness with an interest in the outcome of the case may have a motive to testify falsely, as it cut against the presumption of innocence and prejudiced the defendant.

United States v. Shusta Gumbs (11th Cir. July 2020)

The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the defendant’s conviction for using a deadly weapon to forcibly assault, resist, oppose, impede, intimidate, or interfere with a federal officer based on the defendant striking an officer while escaping in a car. The Court held that the district court’s jury instructions defining “forcibly” and “deadly weapon” were proper, the court properly declined to instruct the jury on the lesser included offense of simple assault since it would support a conviction for the offense charged, and that the district court properly responded to a jury question regarding cars a deadly weapon simply by rereading its instructions.

United States v. Calvin McReynolds (6th Cir. July 2020)

The Sixth Circuit vacated the defendant’s sentence for drug conspiracy and remanded it to the sentencing court after the court held the defendant accountable for a higher drug quantity than the jury did at trial, which the defendant argued violated his Sixth Amendment claim. The court held that the sentencing court did not adequately explain its reasoning, so it could not review the constitutionality of the defendant’s claim.

United States v. Jeremy Wade (7th Cir. June 2020)

The Court affirmed the defendant’s conviction under 18 USC 912 for impersonating a U.S. employee and acting in conformity with that pretense, rejecting his argument that the offense requires an intent to defraud. The Court held that all that was required was impersonating an officer and an “overt act” which causes a victim to take a course of action they otherwise wouldn’t, which in this case was satisfied because the defendant’s high school crush opened her door to him and let him in based on her belief that he was a DEA agent.

United States v. Bryan Singer (11th Cir. June 2020)

The Court affirmed the defendant’s conviction for unlawfully transporting technology to Cuba without a license, holding that there was sufficient evidence that he knew his conduct was unlawful given repeated warnings he received regarding the export license requirement. The Court also held that the trial court adequately conveyed the substance of the defendant’s proposoed instruction on ignorance of the law while it did not recite it verbatim and that the defendant’s sentencing enhancement for obstruction of justice was warranted given his perjured testimony at trial.

United States v. Dustin McLellan (11th Cir. May 2020)

Evidence/Expert Testimony – An officer is not testifying as an expert when he testifies that firearms are often involved in drug activity where such lay opinion testimony is based on his professional experiences. Evidence/Rule 403 – Evidence of drug distribution and possession is relevant in unlawful possession of firearm cases where the element of knowledge …

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United States v. Johnny Benjamin, Jr. (11th Cir. May 2020)

The Court affirmed the conviction of a doctor charged with manufacturing and distributing a controlled substance analogue resulting in a woman’s overdose death. The Court affirmed his conviction on the death count based on expert testimony, co-defendant testimony, and circumstantial evidence, and the Court held that the district court had sufficiently instructed the jury on scienter based on the defendant’s knowledge of the identity of the substance. Nor did the trial court err in declining to investigate juror misconduct based on finding a list of “Do’s and Don’ts of Jury Deliberations” in the deliberation room.

United States v. Ionel Muresanu (7th Cir. March 2020)

The Court vacated the defendant’s convictions for aggravated identity theft based on the trial court violating his Fifth Amendment right to be tried on offenses charged by the grand jury. The indictment against him was defective in alleging that he committed “attempted” aggravated identity theft, a non crime, and the district court erred in removing the “attempt” language from its jury instructions.

United States v. Wesley Scott Hamm (6th Cir. March 2020)

Drug Offenses/Elements – Sufficient evidence existed of a drug conspiracy, as opposed to a mere buyer-seller relationship, where the relationship was ongoing, the quantities involved were large, the transaction involved extensive planning, and the alleged seller taught the buyer how to mix the drugs for resale. Drug Offenses/Death Counts – Sufficient evidence existed that the …

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United States v. Michael Kimbrew (9th Cir. December 2019)

The Court found that there was sufficient evidence to convict the defendant for bribery based on evidence that he took money from an undercover agent to perform an official act, even though the defendant lacked the actual ability to exert the promised influence necessary to perform the official act. The Court explained that the Government does not have to prove that a bribery defendant actually has the ability to achieve the promised outcome since the crime of bribery is based on the agreement, not the outcome.

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