United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee
MEMORANDUM OPINON AND ORDER
defendant, through counsel, filed a Motion for New Trial, or
in the Alternative, For a Judgment of Acquittal. [Doc. 524].
The government has responded in opposition. [Doc. 615]. The
matter is now ripe for review. For the reasons that follow,
the defendant's motion is DENIED.
review briefly, defendant was charged and tried with one
count of possession with intent to distribute five grams or
more of methamphetamine, one count of possession of a firearm
in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, one count of
possession with intent to distribute fifty grams or more of
methamphetamine, and one count of felon in possession of a
firearm. On February 13, 2019, at the close of the
government's case-in-chief, defendant made an oral motion
for a judgment of acquittal which the Court denied. That same
day, the jury convicted defendant of all counts. [Doc. 518].
Defendant subsequently filed this motion.
Rule 33 Motions
Rule of Criminal Procedure 33(a) states that a district judge
may grant a new trial “if the interest of justice so
requires.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 33(a). When faced with a
Rule 33 motion, unlike a motion for judgment of acquittal
under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29, the district
court may weigh the evidence and assess the credibility of
the witnesses. United States v. Lutz, 154 F.3d 581,
589 (6th Cir. 1998) (“It has often been said that [the
trial judge] sits as a thirteenth juror” when
considering a Rule 33 motion.). Nonetheless, a defendant
arguing that the verdict "was against the manifest
weight of the evidence" must clear a high bar.
United States v. Hughes, 505 F.3d 578, 593 (6th Cir.
2007) (Rule 33 motions are granted only in the
"extraordinary circumstance where the evidence
preponderates heavily against the verdict."). Courts
have also interpreted Rule 33's broad "interest of
justice" language to warrant new trials in a host of
other circumstances. See United States v. Griffin,
No. 15-CR-1-ART, 2015 WL 13358334, at * 1 (E.D. Ky. Apr. 29,
2015) (collecting cases). Ultimately, however, a new trial is
a disfavored remedy, to be granted "with great
caution." United States v. Fritts, 557
Fed.Appx. 476, 479 (6th Cir. 2014) (citation omitted). The
defendant bears the burden of proving that a new trial is
warranted. United States v. Davis, 15 F.3d 526, 531
(6th Cir. 1994). Defendant briefly sets forth a slew of
proposed new trial bases. The Court, for the following
reasons, rejects each.
The Court Erred in Allowing the Introduction of Evidence of
the Cash, Safe, Methamphetamine, and WD-40 Can
argues the Court should find the verdict against the manifest
weight of the evidence based on essentially the same ground
the Court rejected in its adoption of the Magistrate
Judge's report and recommendation, recommending the Court
to deny defendant's motions to suppress numbers Two,
Three, and Four. [Docs. 140, 142, 144, 356, 461, 524]. The
government counters that the Court properly allowed the
introduction of the evidence collected from the traffic
stops. [Doc. 615 at 2-5].
entire argument in support of his motion for a new trial is:
1. The Court erred in allowing the introduction into evidence
of the cash money (Government Exhibits Nos. 2 and 5) as well
as the safe and contents of the safe (Government Exhibits
Nos. 6, 7, 8 and 9), and instead adopting the Report and
Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge [Doc. 356] denying the
Defendant's Motions to Suppress Nos. 2 and 3 [Docs. 140
and 142] after denying the Defendant's Objections to said
Report and Recommendation in the Order entered on January 22,
2019 [Doc. 461].
2. The Court erred in allowing the introducing into evidence
of the WD-40 can and methamphetamine taken therefrom
(Government Exhibits Nos. 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15-b), and
instead adopting the Report and Recommendation of the
Magistrate Judge [Doc. 356] denying the Defendant's
Motion to Suppress No. 4 [Doc. 144] after denying the
Defendant's Objections to said Report and Recommendations
in the Order entered on January 22, 2019 [Doc. 461].
[Doc. 524 at 1-2]. The Court finds the defendant has failed
to meet his burden of proving a new trial is warranted.
Defendant has not identified how and why the alleged errors
made by the Court with respect to the introduction of
evidence, the suppression motions he filed, and the
objections he made require a new trial. Defendant does not
identify any evidence that would undermine the ability of the
jury to find defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Defendant does not explain how the verdict was “against
the manifest weight of the evidence.” This is not a
case in which extraordinary circumstances and the evidence
preponderates heavily against the verdicts. See
Hughes, 505 F.3d at 593. The Court concludes that the
interests of justice do not require a new trial for
defendant, nor were the jury's guilty verdicts against
the manifest weight of the evidence. See Fed. R.
Crim. P. 33(a).
The Court Erred by Denying Defendant's Special Jury
argues the Court erred by denying defendant's request for
a special jury instruction, [Doc. 495], because the evidence
presented at trial warranted the jury to make a negative
inference, as to audio and video evidence of defendant's
traffic stops had been destroyed by the MPD. [Doc. 524 at 3].
The government contends the Court properly denied
defendant's jury instruction request. [Doc. 615 at
court has broad discretion in drafting jury instructions, and
does not abuse its discretion unless the jury charge fails to
accurately reflect the law. United States v. Leman,
2013 WL 1856123, at *4 (E.D. Ky. Apr. 30, 2013) (citing
United States v. Ross, 502 F.3d 521, 528 (6th Cir.
2007); United States v. Beaty, 245 F.3d 617, 621
(6th Cir. 2001)). To satisfy his burden to show that the
district court abused its discretion in its choice of jury
instructions, a defendant must show that "the
instructions, viewed as a whole, were confusing, misleading,
or prejudicial." United States v. Freeman, 299
Fed.Appx. 556, 558 (6th Cir. 2008) (citing United States
v. Harrod, 168 F.3d 887, 892 (6th Cir. 1999)). "No
single provision of the jury charge may be viewed in
isolation, rather, the charge must be considered as a
whole." Beaty, 245 F.3d at 621-22 (citing
United States v. Lee, 991 F.2d 343, 350 (6th Cir.
1993)). An omission or an incomplete instruction is even less
likely to be prejudicial than an overt misstatement of the
law. Henderson v. Kibbe, 431 U.S. 145, 154-55
charge conference, the Court, from the bench, denied
defendant's request for a special spoliation charge. The
Court found that defendant's reliance on Third Circuit
case law was misplaced and that the Sixth Circuit required a
different standard for providing a spoliation instruction.
The Court determined there was no showing of bad faith in
MPD's destruction of the video and audio recordings of
defendant's traffic stops. The Court specifically found
MPD officer oversight and failure to preserve the recordings
did not amount to the officers acting in bad faith. Further,
more generally, the Court held that the mass data purge did