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United States v. Slaton

July 10, 1970

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
JAMES SLATON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Cummings and Kerner, Circuit Judges, and Doyle, District Judge.*fn1 James E. Doyle, District Judge (dissenting).

Author: Cummings

CUMMINGS, Circuit Judge.

After a jury trial, defendant was convicted under Counts V and VI of an indictment charging him and two other men, Frank Dowery and Morris Tate, with selling 11.450 grams of heroin to one Carl L. Jackson without receiving an order blank from him, and with unlawfully receiving this imported drug. These counts asserted violations of 26 U.S.C. § 4705(a) and 21 U.S.C. § 174. Defendant received 10-year concurrent sentences on each of these counts.*fn2

Defendant asserts that the district court improperly refused a conference on instructions as required by Rule 30 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. The Court thus allegedly failed to inform counsel of its proposed action upon the request for instructions prior to the closing arguments. When defense counsel complained of this matter below, the district judge replied that he had given all of the defendant's instructions except the next to the last paragraph of Instruction D-2.*fn3 Defense counsel then stated that the district judge had also refused to give his tendered Instruction D-3, providing:

"Although unexplained possession of the narcotics referred to in Count VI of the indictment may give rise to the presumption that the defendant knew that the narcotics were unlawfully imported, you are not compelled to find that the narcotics were unlawfully imported and that the defendant had knowledge of the unlawful importation. This presumption merely permits you to so find." (Emphasis supplied.)*fn4

The substitute instruction actually given by the district court was Section 17.01-1 of the La Buy instructions (36 F.R.D. 457, 608-609) and correctly states the law to be applied. United States v. Kapsalis, 313 F.2d 875, 878 (7th Cir.1963), certiorari denied, 374 U.S. 856, 83 S. Ct. 1911, 10 L. Ed. 2d 1077; United States v. McKay, 283 F.2d 399, 404 (7th Cir.1960), certiorari denied, 365 U.S. 813, 81 S. Ct. 695, 5 L. Ed. 2d 693; see also Turner v. United States, 396 U.S. 398, 406-407, 90 S. Ct. 642, 24 L. Ed. 2d 610. This instruction did not compel the jury to convict the defendant, as he contends, for it stated only that possession would be deemed sufficient to authorize conviction unless the possession were explained to the satisfaction of the jury. Likewise, we have previously upheld instructions given over a defendant's objection that a presumption of guilt may not be drawn from his failure to testify. United States v. Wick, 416 F.2d 61, 62-63 (7th Cir.1969), certiorari denied, 396 U.S. 961, 90 S. Ct. 436, 24 L. Ed. 2d 425; United States v. Schwartz, 398 F.2d 464, 469-470 (7th Cir.1968), certiorari denied sub nom. Pyne v. United States, 393 U.S. 1062, 89 S. Ct. 714, 21 L. Ed. 2d 705. There was, therefore, no error in the instructions actually given by the trial judge.

Turning to the question of Rule 30, we conclude that the failure of the trial court to hold a conference on instructions did not result in any prejudicial error to defendant in this case. The only matters offered as indicia of prejudice were defendant's alleged inability to determine the theories of the Government's case and inability to argue as to the instruction that there was no presumption of guilt from his failure to take the stand. From the opening statement of the prosecutor throughout the trial, it was apparent that the Government based its case upon the theories of a joint venture or common scheme or, in the alternative, upon defendant's role as an aider or abettor. As already noted, the instruction on defendant's failure to take the stand was permissible. We agree with the Ninth Circuit that the failure to grant a Rule 30 conference is not reversible error unless the defendant demonstrates he has been prejudiced thereby. Carbo v. United States, 314 F.2d 718, 745-746 (9th Cir.1964), certiorari denied, 377 U.S. 953, 84 S. Ct. 1626, 12 L. Ed. 2d 498; cf. United States v. Titus, 221 F.2d 571, 573-574 (2d Cir.1955); Sultan v. United States, 249 F.2d 385, 388 (5th Cir.1957). Lacking the appropriate conference, this defendant would have been entitled to present his closing argument based on the instructions he tendered to the court. He chose, however, to argue the facts of the case and avoided discussing the law. Since this defendant has shown no prejudice therefrom, the failure to hold a Rule 30 conference was harmless error. Cf. United States v. Bass, 425 F.2d 161 (7th Cir.1970); United States v. Schartner, 426 F.2d 470 (3d Cir.1970).

Defendant also complains of a fatal variance between the allegations of the indictment and proof on the ground that under Count V any sale "was a transaction between himself and Tate," not involving him in the later exchange between Tate and Narcotics Agent Jackson. However, viewing the evidence in the Government's favor (Glasser v. United States, 315 U.S. 60, 80, 62 S. Ct. 457, 86 L. Ed. 680), it is apparent that defendant aided and abetted Tate in the sale of the heroin to Jackson, thus making defendant properly chargeable as a principal under 18 U.S.C. § 2(a). Glass v. United States, 328 F.2d 754, 756 (7th Cir.1964), certiorari denied, 377 U.S. 983, 84 S. Ct. 1892, 12 L. Ed. 2d 751. There was therefore no fatal variance. Nassif v. United States, 370 F.2d 147, 155 (8th Cir.1966).

Finally, defendant asserts that the district judge should have held a hearing on his motion for a new trial in order to consider his inability to interview defendant Tate prior to trial. However, defendant's affidavit supporting his motion for a new trial revealed that Tate's attorney had advised defendant's attorney that Tate "refused to appear and testify as a witness in his behalf." This may explain why defendant never attempted to call Tate as a witness nor even requested the court to permit an interview with him in the Cook County Jail. Under the circumstances, we find no abuse of discretion in the trial court's failure to hold a hearing on the defendant's motion for a new trial.

The judgment is affirmed.

Disposition

Affirmed.

JAMES E. DOYLE, District Judge (dissenting).

The requirement of Rule 30, that the court inform counsel of its proposed action on requested instructions prior to closing arguments, is explicit, flat, and wholesome. It is fair to counsel and the parties. It improves closing arguments by making them more pointed and accurate. The chance for error is reduced ...


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