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United States v. Brandon

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

October 21, 2014



J. RANDAL HALL, District Judge.

Presently pending before this Court is Carl Lamont Brandon's ("Defendant" Motion for a New Trial. (Doc. no. 62. Upon consideration of Defendant's motion, the Government's response, the record, and the relevant legal authority, the motion is DENIED.

I. Facts and Procedural Background

Defendant was indicted on December 6, 2012 for violation of 28 U.S.C. ยง 922(g), Felon in Possession of a Firearm. (Doc. no. 1. Defendant entered a plea of "Not Guilty" at his arraignment on December 20, 2012. (Doc. no. 7. Following his arraignment, Defendant filed a number of pre-trial motions, including motions to preserve record as to race, to preserve evidence, for release of Brady materials, for disclosure of electronic surveillance, for Jencks Act material, and to participate in voir dire. (Doc. nos. 10-15. In addressing these motions, the United States Magistrate Judge noted that Defendant did not file any specific motions for discovery. (Doc. no. 22. Instead, the Government provided Defendant with "expanded" discovery, which included reports from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the Columbia County Sheriff's Office, and the United States Attorney's Office; all known statements by Defendant; and results from any scientific tests. (Id. The court additionally required that the Government provide Defendant with any Jencks Act material no later than seven days before trial. (Id.

On August 2, 2013, Defendant moved to suppress (1 statements he made to the arresting deputy and (2 a Hearing Waiver form executed by Defendant on October 16, 2012 and any statements made on or about the signing of that form. (Doc. no. 30. In its response, the Government agreed not to introduce the Hearing Waiver during its case-in-chief, but reserved the right to use the waiver or statements made to the parole officer at that time for impeachment purposes on rebuttal. (Doc. no. 32 at 1. Following the suppression hearing on August 8, 2013, the Government sent defense counsel a letter clarifying its intentions with regard to Defendant's statements to his parole officer. (Doc. no. 62-2. In the letter, the Government reiterated that it would not introduce, during its case-in-chief, any "statements made by [Defendant] to his parole officer... following his arrest, beyond the Waiver of Final Hearing which we have agreed not to introduce." (Id. (emphasis added. The Government additionally informed defense counsel that the parole officer was to bring any additional documents related to Defendant's supervision to trial and that it would provide defense counsel with any such materials prior to the parole officer's testimony. (Id.

During jury selection, the Government was allowed seven peremptory strikes and Defendant eleven. The jury pool was made up of thirty-two members, twelve of whom were African-American. The impaneled jury of fourteen, including the two alternate jurors, was made up of four African-Americans. The Government used its strikes on two African-American males, four African-American females, and one white female; Defendant used his eleven strikes on seven white males, one white female, one Indian female, one Asian male, one African-American male, and one African-American female. (Id.

Defendant, at the close of the striking process, raised a Batson challenge arguing that the Government's pattern of striking African-American venire members and the Government's "lack of other justification" created an inference of discrimination. (Doc. no. 65, "Trial Transcript, " at 30. The Court asked defense counsel to present any other factors demonstrating discrimination, which Defendant did not do, and accordingly ruled that Defendant failed to make out a prima facie case of discrimination. (Id. at 30-34.

Following voir dire, Defendant filed a Motion in Limine to exclude the testimony of Defendant's parole officer in the Government's case-in-chief, as well as any documentary evidence relating to her testimony, arguing that such matters were irrelevant to the issues to be tried and unduly prejudicial.[1] (Id. at 51, 55. This Court deferred ruling pre-trial, deciding instead to address the issue in the context in which it would be offered. (Id. at 75. The Government did not introduce the parole officer's testimony during its case-in-chief. Once defense counsel informed the Court that it would be calling witnesses, the Government handed defense counsel the materials supplied by the parole officer. (Doc. no. 62 at 8. Included in those materials were the parole officer's notes regarding a conversation with Defendant from October 10, 2012, [2] two days after his arrest. (Id., Ex. C. Defendant did not testify at trial.

At the close of Defendant's case, the Government called Defendant's parole officer to the stand to rebut the testimony given by Defendant's witnesses. (Trial Transcript at 153. Defense counsel objected, arguing that the materials were disclosed impermissibly late and that they contained an admission that violated Miranda. (Id. at 154-56. Counsel for the Government responded that Defendant knew of the conversation with the parole officer and did not move to suppress any statements from that conversation before trial, that Defendant's earlier motion to suppress only addressed statements taken while signing the Hearing Waiver form one week after his arrest, and that the materials were properly disclosed because the Government had only received them at the beginning of trial. (Id. at 156, 162. The Court allowed the testimony, denying

Defendant's motion for leave to file a motion to suppress. (Id. at 165. Defendant was found guilty on August 13, 2013, and sentenced to 120 months in custody. (Doc. nos. 53, 75.

II. Applicable Law

Motions for new trial are governed by Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33. Rule 33 authorizes the Court, upon a motion by the defendant, to vacate judgment and grant a new trial "if the interest of justice so requires." Fed. R. Crim. P. 33(a. If a motion for new trial is based upon errors committed during trial, the defendant has the burden of showing that (1) some error was in fact committed and (2 that such error was prejudicial to him. United States v. Delaughter, No. 8:07-cr-201, 2007 WL 3034645, at *1 (M.D. Fla. Oct. 16, 2007 (citing United States v. Simms , 508 F.Supp. 1188, 1203 (W.D. La. 1980. Even if a defendant can make such a showing, a new trial is only warranted where the error affects the defendant's substantial rights and the fairness of trial. Id .; see also Fed. R. Crim. P. 52(a. An error affects a defendant's substantial rights if it "probably had a substantial influence on the jury's verdict." United States v. Stephens , 365 F.3d 967, 977 (11th Cir. 2004 (internal quotation marks omitted.

III. Discussion

Defendant bases his motion on two claims: (1 the Court erred in denying Defendant's Batson challenge; and (2 the Court erred by allowing testimony regarding statements made by Defendant to ...

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