Jury Instructions

The Federal Docket

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.

United States v. Nowlin Lee Waugh, Jr. (9th Cir. December 2019)

The Court affirmed the defendant’s conviction for possession of meth with intent to distribute, holding that the defendant was not entitled to a jury instruction on the lesser included offense of simple possession where the evidence showed that the quantity of meth exceeded the quantity associated with personal use, the meth’s purity suggested that the meth was being used as a cutting agent, and the defendant’s travel indicated possible distribution.

United States v. Martin Johnson (4th Cir. December 2019)

The Court held that a district court does not plainly err by failing to give a limiting instruction when admitting 404(b) evidence in the absence of a defendant’s request for such an instruction. Additionally, the Court held that robbery possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute under Maryland law are predicate “violent felonies” under the ACCA.

United States v. David Blaszczak, et al. (2d Cir. December 2019)

The Court held that confidential, nonpublic information generated and held by a government agency constitutes “property” in Title 18 fraud offenses. The Court also held, unlike in Title 15 securities fraud cases, a defendant charged with securities or wire fraud under Title 18 does not have to receive a personal benefit to be convicted.

United States v. Alphonso I. Waters, Jr. (11th Cir. September 2019)

The Court affirmed the defendant’s convictions for wire fraud, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in rejecting proposed jury instructions that distinguished a “scheme to defraud” from a “scheme to deceive,” since the proposed instructions did not also include language defining an intent to harm based on a misrepresentation of the nature of the bargain.

United States v. Kevin Jay Mast (8th Cir. September 2019)

The Court reversed the defendant’s conviction for “disturbing” federal wildlife property, holding that the statutory provision penalizing anyone who “otherwise violates” the federal wildlife regulations in question does not impose strict liability but rather has an implicit mens rea element requiring proof of criminal negligence.

United States v. Cesar Antonio Becerra (9th Cir. September 2019)

The Court reversed the defendant’s conviction, holding that the district court’s failure to orally instruct the jury on the elements of the charged offenses was a structural and plain error even where the district court orally confirmed with each juror that they had read the instructions.

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