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United States v. Gabriel

April 16, 2004

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, APPELLEE
v.
ROMONE L. GABRIEL, APPELLANT



Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (No. 02cr00216-01)

Before: Edwards and Henderson, Circuit Judges, and Williams, Senior Circuit Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Williams, Senior Circuit Judge

Argued March 18, 2004

Circuit Judge HENDERSON concurs in the judgment.

Following a search of his home, Romone Gabriel was charged with four offenses: two counts of illegal possession of a firearm or ammunition by a felon under 42 U.S.C. § 922(g), possession of heroin under 21 U.S.C. § 844(a), and possession of an unregistered firearm under 26 U.S.C. § 5861(d). A jury found him guilty on all counts. On two of the issues raised on appeal, the government agrees with the defendant not only that the challenged rulings were error but also that they require a remand for resentencing. Of the remaining issues, only two require discussion: the empanelling of a juror who lived near Gabriel's home and the classification of burglaries committed by the defendant in 1986 as "crimes of violence" under the Sentencing Guidelines. As to these we find no reversible error.

The first of the discussion-worthy claims is that the district court erred in not striking Juror #1021 for cause. During voir dire, the district court asked if any potential juror lived or worked in the vicinity of Gabriel's home, where the weapons and drugs had been found, or was familiar with the area; Juror #1021 answered affirmatively. As a result, the following colloquy took place between her and the district court:

The Court: Would your familiarity with the area influence you in any way in hearing this case?

Juror #1021: That's why I put a question mark. I wish I knew for sure. I don't know for sure. I don't think so. I think I could be impartial. This is my neighborhood.

The Court: Why do you think that might influence you?

Juror #1021: Guns. There are guns in my neighborhood. I just -- I don't know. I went back to the office and I watched the news today [about the then at-large Washington, D.C., snipers] so I am a little upset about guns today. I don't know. I don't think it would but it could. I don't know. I can't honestly answer.

The Court: You can honestly but you just can't be sure.

Juror #1021: I can't be sure. I can't be sure. I just think it's important to -- I am very familiar with the area.

The Court: Would you make every effort to put out of your mind the fact that it is in an area you have some familiarity with ...


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