Thursday, June 16th, 2016

Defendants bat 0-3 in the Circuit today

The Second Circuit issued three summary orders in criminal cases today.

In United States v. Clare, 15-1601, the Court affirmed the defendant’s conviction on marijuana and gun charges.  Clare argued that the evidence at trial was insufficient to sustain the convictions, primarily because the cooperating witnesses were not credible. The Court rejected this argument, explaining that “the credibility of witnesses is within the province of the jury, not this Court.”  Order at 2.  In light of the remaining evidence, the Court held that a reasonable juror could have concluded that Clare was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  Because the evidence was sufficient, Clare’s attorney was not ineffective in failing to move for a judgment of acquittal in post-trial briefing.  The Court also affirmed the district court’s denial of a motion to suppress.

In United States v. Washington, 14-4740, the Circuit rejected the defendant’s assertion that he had been incompetent to engage in plea negotiations and held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to hold an evidentiary hearing where the court-ordered evaluation confirmed the court’s view that the defendant was competent. The Circuit also rejected the claim that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to show the defendant a plea agreement.  The Circuit held that the defendant could not show prejudice because he had been aware of the approximate contours of the plea agreement – he was told the guidelines range in the plea offer was 42 years less than the range after trial but it actually was 45 years less – and the evidence overwhelmingly suggested that he would have gone to trial even if he knew the correct details.  Again, because there was no evidence that would have been elicited in support of this claim at a hearing, the district court did not err in declining to hold a hearing on the ineffective assistance claim.

In United States v. Rosario, 15-1305, the Circuit held that the district court’s supplemental jury instruction on aiding and abetting liability regarding Count Two, if in error, was harmless, because the jury also found Rosario guilty on Count Three as a principal without a similar instruction.  The Court found no error in the challenged portions of the government’s closing argument.  And commentary regarding the substance of the defendant’s post-Miranda statements did not amount to an impermissible comment on a defendant’s exercise of the right to remain silent.  Finally, the Court rejected Mr. Rosario’s challenge to his sentence.  The Court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing Mr. Rosario to the top of the guidelines range, even though doing so results in a disparity with respect to his co-defendants.  The Court held that the district court “thoughtfully considered Rosario’s arguments regarding the sentencing disparity and explained why the disparity was warranted under the circumstances.”  Order at 3.

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