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United States v. Willis

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Dublin Division

October 14, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
CHRISTOPHER PAUL WILLIS

ORDER

BRIAN K. EPPS, Magistrate Judge.

Before the Court are the various pre-trial discovery motions filed by the parties. Many (if not all) discovery issues should be addressed in full by the Court's rulings below and the liberal discovery policy that the government has confirmed it is applying in this case. To the extent, if any, either party believes there are specific inadequacies in the discovery exchanged to date that are not addressed below, the Court directs such party to confer in good faith with the opposing party and file, if necessary, a discovery motion and supporting brief by October 20, 2014.

GENERAL DISCOVERY MOTION

As to Defendant's general discovery requests, Defendant does not allege any specific inadequacies in the discovery provided by the government to date, presumably because of the government's statement that it has followed in this case its customary practice of providing liberal discovery by furnishing Defendant with investigative reports, Defendant's criminal history, audio and video recordings, and other documentary materials as set forth in the First Certificate of Disclosure. (Doc. no. 173; doc. no. 226, p. 1.) Accordingly, the Court finds that the position of the United States Attorney in permitting liberal disclosure of the government's file pertaining to this case renders the general discovery requests MOOT. (Doc. no. 64.)

MOTION FOR ACCESS TO PROSPECTIVE GOVERNMENT WITNESSES

Defendant seeks access to prospective government witnesses for the purpose of interviewing such witnesses within a reasonable time prior to trial. (Doc. no. 65.) Although the government is not required to make its witnesses available, neither may it interfere with defense counsel's right to interview prospective witnesses. United States v. Manor , 936 F.2d 1238, 1242 (11th Cir. 1991); United States v. Pepe , 747 F.2d 632, 654 (11th Cir. 1984). However, a government witness may refuse to be interviewed by defense counsel. United States v. Bennett , 928 F.2d 1548, 1553-54 (11th Cir. 1991) (citing United States v. Brown , 555 F.2d 407, 425 (5th Cir. 1977) and United States v. Benson , 495 F.2d 475, 479 (5th Cir. 1974)). Recognizing that the government does not "control" its witnesses and does not oppose defense counsel's contact with witnesses, the Court GRANTS the motion to interview as to any witness who chooses to speak with defense counsel prior to trial.

MOTION FOR LIST OF GOVERNMENT WITNESSES

Defendant requests an order directing the government to furnish a complete list of witnesses. In non-capital cases such as this case, a defendant is generally not entitled to a list of government witnesses. United States v. Massell , 823 F.2d 1503, 1509 (11th Cir. 1987); United States v. Johnson , 713 F.2d 654, 659 (11th Cir. 1983); United States v. Colson , 662 F.2d 1389, 1391 (11th Cir. 1981). While this Court retains the right to exercise its discretion in permitting Defendant to have access to a list of government witnesses, at most the government would be required to comply with this request not more than fourteen days prior to trial. Therefore, the Court DENIES this motion. (Doc. no. 66.) However, as a practical matter, it would appear that Defendant will be receiving much of this information because of the government's liberal discovery policy and because of the government's obligation to disclose material pursuant to the Jencks Act and/or Brady v. Maryland , 373 U.S. 83 (1963).

MOTION FOR A BILL OF PARTICULARS

Defendant is charged with one count of Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute and to Distribute Controlled Substances, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846, and seven counts of Use of a Communication Facility in committing, causing, and facilitating the charged conspiracy, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 843(b). Defendant filed this motion seeking from the government information concerning the exact time and date the alleged crimes as set forth in the indictment occurred; the specific nature of the acts Defendant is alleged to have performed in furtherance of the allegations in the indictment; the acts of any other co-defendant performed in furtherance of the conspiracy alleged in the indictment; and, the names of any persons to whom Defendant may have made statements in reference to the crimes alleged in the indictment. (Doc. no. 67, p. 1.)

Rule 7(f) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that a defendant may seek from the Court a bill of particulars setting forth the time, place, manner, and means of commission of the crime alleged in the indictment. The purpose of the bill of particulars is to give notice of the offenses charged in the indictment so that a defendant may prepare a defense, avoid surprise, or raise pleas of double jeopardy when the indictment itself is too vague for such purposes. United States v. Anderson , 799 F.2d 1438, 1441 (11th Cir. 1986) (quoting United States v. Cole , 755 F.2d 748, 760 (11th Cir. 1985)). Where necessary, the bill of particulars supplements the indictment by providing the accused with information necessary for trial preparation. Id . Generalized discovery is not a proper purpose in seeking a bill of particulars. United States v. Warren , 772 F.2d 827, 837 (11th Cir. 1985) (quoting United States v. Colson , 662 F.2d 1389, 1391 (11th Cir. 1981)). Nor is it a device intended to secure for the defense the government's explanation of its theory of the case. United States v. Hajecate , 683 F.2d 894, 898 (5th Cir. 1982). Absent a showing that a defendant cannot prepare a defense without the government providing the identity or identities of an unindicted co-conspirator(s), such information need not be revealed in response to a motion for a bill of particulars. Warren , 772 F.2d at 837.

The determination of whether a bill of particulars should be ordered may only be decided in light of the particular circumstances of each case. United States v. Davis , 582 F.2d 947, 951 (5th Cir. 1987). The question is committed to the sound discretion of the trial court whose decision will be reversed only where denial of the motion results in surprise to a defendant at trial resulting in prejudice to his substantial rights. United States v. Hawkins , 661 F.2d 436, 451-52 (5th Cir. Unit B Nov. 1981). The indictment in the case is specific and supports each of the requisite elements of the charged offenses. In addition, the government has provided liberal discovery consisting of investigative reports, Defendant's criminal history, audio and video recordings, and other documentary materials as set forth in the First Certificate of Disclosure (doc. no. 173). Because the government appears to have provided all information essential for trial preparation by the defense, the Court DENIES Defendant's motion. (Doc. no. 67.)

MOTION FOR PRE-TRIAL JAMES HEARING

Defendant moves for a pre-trial hearing to determine the admissibility of out-of-court statements by alleged co-conspirators. To lay the proper foundation for admission of a co-conspirator statement pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 801(d)(2)(E) and under the standard enunciated in United States v. James, 590 F.2d 575, 582 (5th Cir. 1978) ( en banc ), "the government must establish by a preponderance of the evidence: (1) that a conspiracy existed, (2) that the defendant and the declarant were members of the conspiracy, and (3) that the statement was made during the course and in furtherance of the conspiracy." United States v. Harrison, 246 F.Appx. 640, 651 (11th Cir. 2007). However, as the trial court may consider both co-conspirator statements and independent external evidence in making a determination on admissibility, a pre-trial determination under James is not required. United States v. Magluta , 418 F.3d 1166, 1177-78 (11th Cir. 2005); United States v. Van Hemelryck , 945 F.2d 1493, 1497-98 (11th Cir. 1991). Thus, the required finding need not be made pre-trial and can be made at the close of the government's case in chief. United States v. Johnson, No. 2:12cr84-MHT , 2012 WL 5392267, at *2 (M.D. Ala. Nov. 5, 2012) (citing United States v. Sanchez , 722 F.2d 1501, 1507 (11th Cir. 1984)). Indeed, the Supreme Court has ruled ...


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