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United States v. Taylor

August 6, 2008

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF
v.
REJON TAYLOR, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Curtis L. Collier

MEMORANDUM

Before the Court is Defendant Rejon Taylor's motion to strike a portion of the amended superseding notice of intent to seek the death penalty (Court File No. 554). Specifically, Defendant seeks to strike portions of the notice concerning the effect of the victim's death on friends and employees. After Defendant raised the issue, the Court ordered the parties to submit further briefs addressing the government's proposed victim impact evidence (Court File No. 580). Having reviewed the parties' briefs (Court Files No. 582, 583) and the applicable law, the Court will DENY Defendant's motion to strike (Court File No. 554).

I. RELEVANT FACTS

A superseding indictment (Court File No. 447) charges Defendant with:

(1) Carjacking Resulting in Death, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2119(3) and 2(a) and (b);

(2) Firearms Murder During and in Relation to Carjacking, 18 U.S.C. §§ 924(j)(1) and 2(a) and (b);

(3) Kidnapping Resulting in Death, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1201(a)(1) and 2(a) and (b); and

(4) Firearms Murder During and in Relation to Kidnapping, 18 U.S.C. §§ 924(j)(1) and 2(a) and (b).

The United States filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty (Court File No. 123), a superseding notice of intent (Court File No. 511), and an amended superseding notice of intent (Court File No. 547). The amended notice includes a section on victim impact evidence, which expresses the government's intent to "present information concerning the effect of the offenses on Guy Luke, his family, friends, and employees, which will include evidence and testimony that describes in detail the extent and scope of the injury and loss suffered by Guy Luke, his family and friends, and any other relevant information."*fn1 Specifically, as the government clarified at the Court's request, the government intends to present the testimony of a close friend and co-worker of the victim, Guy Luck. The government described the witness as the daughter of an individual who previously dated Luck for some time and has known him from a very early age. The government hopes the witness's testimony will give the jury a glimpse of the victim's personality and the life he led.

II. DISCUSSION

The parties disagree about whether the Federal Death Penalty Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 3591-3598, permits the admission of the government's intended victim impact evidence. The dispute arises over the interpretation of § 3593(a), which requires the government to provide notice if it intends to seek a sentence of death. That notice must contain the aggravating factor or factors the government believes justify a death sentence. § 3592(a)(2).

The factors for which notice is provided under this subsection may include factors concerning the effect of the offense on the victim and the victim's family, and may include oral testimony, a victim impact statement that identifies the victim of the offense and the extent and scope of the injury and loss suffered by the victim and the victim's family, and any other relevant information.

Id.

Defendant argues § 3593(a)(2) specifically limits victim impact testimony to that concerning the effects of the offense on the victim and the victim's family. Therefore, Defendant contends, it would be improper for the Court to allow the admission of victim impact testimony from a friend and co-worker of the victim. The government argues that § 3593(a)(2) , when read together with § 3593(c), authorizes the Court to allow the admission of victim impact testimony from a close friend. Section 3593(c) provides, ...


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