United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
F. Cox United States District Judge.
trial began in this case on November 6, 2017. On November 8,
2017, the Court heard oral argument on the admissibility of
Government's Exhibits 13 and 14. At the conclusion of
arguments, the Court ruled that both exhibits were
admissible. The Court now issues this Memorandum Opinion to
further explain its rulings in writing.
has been charged with: (1) conspiracy to commit robbery
affecting commerce (Hobbs Act robbery), 18 U.S.C. §
1951; (2) using, carrying, brandishing and discharging a
firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence,
to-wit: conspiracy to commit robbery affecting commerce, 18
U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A); and (3) possessing and
discharging a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence,
to-wit: Hobbs Act extortion and robbery, causing the death of
the named victim, 18 U.S.C. §§ 924(c)(1) and
issue is the admissibility of the Government's Exhibits
13 and 14. Exhibit 13 is letters purportedly written by
Defendant Quinton Leavell to Xavier Farmer while both were
detained in the Grayson County Jail. Exhibit 14 is a letter
written on napkins that were purportedly written by Xavier
Farmer to Defendant, also while both were detained in jail.
challenged the admissibility of both exhibits, arguing that
they were not properly authenticated and that they were not
satisfy the requirement of authenticating or identifying an
item of evidence, the proponent must produce evidence
sufficient to support a finding that the item is what the
proponent claims it is.” Fed.R.Evid. 901(a).
Government sought to authenticate Exhibit 13, the letters
purportedly written by Defendant Quinton Leavell, under Rule
901(b)(3) (Comparison by an Expert Witness or the Trier of
Fact) and (b)(4) (Distinctive Characteristics and the Like).
As stated at the hearing, the Court finds Rule 901(b)(3) to
be the appropriate rule in this context. Rule 901(b0(3)
“permits the trier of fact to compare documents with
other documents which have been authenticated.”
United States v. Saadey, 393 F.3d 669, 679 (6th Cir.
case, the Government admitted Exhibit 13A, which is a letter
sent from Defendant to Judge Campbell and his clerk and that
contained his case number and discussed details of the case.
This letter was filed with the Court and is a part of the
docket (Doc. # 36). Accordingly, the Court finds that this
letter has been properly authenticated as a letter written by
Defendant. It would defy logic and common sense to conclude
that this letter was not sent by Defendant but was instead
sent by some other unknown individual. And, if this letter
was not written by Defendant, it would also defy logic that
Defendant or defense counsel did not challenge its continuing
presence on the Court's docket. Because an authenticated
document written by Defendant was introduced into evidence,
Rule 901(b)(3) permits the jury, as the trier of fact, to
make lay comparisons between that document and the purported
letters of Defendant introduced as Exhibit 13.
Saadey, 393 F.3d at 679-80.
Exhibit 14, the letter purportedly written by Xavier Farmer,
the Government relied upon Rule 901(b)(4), which considers
“[t]he appearance, contents, substance, internal
patterns, or other distinctive characteristics of the item,
taken together with all the circumstances.” Writings
may be authenticated under this rule where they deal with
matters “particularly within the knowledge of the
persons corresponding” such that the contents are not a
“matter of common knowledge.” United States
v. Jones, 107 F.3d 1147, 1150 (6th Cir. 1997), quoting
United States v. Maldonado-Rivera, 922 F.2d 934, 957
(2d. Cir. 1990). In Jones, a card allegedly written
by the defendant met the authentication requirements of Rule
901 where it contained references about the recipients family
members that nobody else could have written. Id.
the letter is signed by “Factor, ” which
testimony identified as Farmer's nickname. The letter
refers to the author's court proceeding before Judge
Trauger and refers to the Assistant United States Attorney
involved by name. The letter also discusses the
Government's intent to seek immunity for Farmer, which he
did in fact receive. And, to corroborate this information,
the Government introduced court pleadings to show that Farmer
was, in fact, in court before Judge Trauger on October 30th.
The Court finds that contents of the letter, taken together
with the circumstances, are sufficiently distinctive to
identify them as being written by Xavier Farmer, thereby
satisfying Rule 901.