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

The Federal Docket

July 7, 2020

Evidence/Out-of-court Identification – If witness’s out-of-court identification is sufficiently reliable, it can be introduced even if the identification was unduly suggestive.

Bank Robbery/Elements – A certificate from the FDIC, witness testimony establishing the existence of federal bank insurance, and the universal presumption that banks are federally insured all support a finding that a bank is insured by the FDIC.

New Trial/DNA Testimony – Newly discovered evidence of a deviation between witness testimony and the FBI’s recommended language would not probably produce a different result, and therefore a new trial is not warranted, if there was other testimony linking evidence to a defendant’s DNA and if other, non-DNA evidence also supports a defendant’s guilt.

Darius Caldwell was convicted of two counts of armed bank robbery under 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a) and (d), two counts of brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence under 18 U.S.C. § 942(c), and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Caldwell was sentenced to 384 months.

On appeal, Caldwell raised multiple claims. First, he argued that the district court erred by denying his motion to suppress an out-of-court identification. He also argued that the court erred by denying his motion for judgement of acquittal. Finally, he argued that the court erred by denying his motion for new trial based on the improper admission of DNA testimony.

The Court disagreed, first holding that the admission of the out-of-court identification did not mandate a reversal because “the district court did not clearly err in alternatively finding that the identification was sufficiently reliable.” Even assuming the identification was unduly suggestive, the Court held that the totality of the circumstances of the witness’s identification, including the witness’s opportunity to view the suspect, the degree of the witness’s attention, the accuracy and certainty of the description, the length of time between the crime and the identification, and the defense counsel’s thorough cross-examination, justified the district court’s finding of reliability.

The Court also held that there was sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the bank was FDIC-insured, thus meeting the interstate jurisdictional element, since the government introduced an FDIC certificate and called witnesses who testified as to the existence of the bank’s insurance. The Court also noted the “universal presumption . . . that all banks are federally insured.”

The Court also held that a new trial was not warranted since Caldwell failed to show that the new DNA testimony would likely produce a different outcome. The Court held that three deviations between a witness’s testimony and the FBI’s recommended language regarding DNA deviation ratios do not affect the weight of the remaining portions of the witness’s testimony, which provided other connections between the evidence and Caldwell’s DNA. Further, the Court noted that there was other, non-DNA evidence that supported Caldwell’s guilt.

Appeal from the Northern District of Georgia

Opinion by Hull, joined by Jordan and Tjoflat

Click here to read the opinion.

Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

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