The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN W. DARRAH, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
The United States of America ("the Government") brought a
one-count indictment against Defendant, James Humphreys.
Defendant, a convicted felon, was indicted for possessing a
firearm that traveled through interstate commerce in violation of
18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Defendant was found guilty of the charged
offense after jury trial held from March 16-18, 2004. Thereafter,
Defendant filed a Motion for Judgment of Acquittal and a Motion
for a New Trial. For the reasons that follow, those motions are
Motions for judgment of acquittal should only be granted when
"the evidence is insufficient to sustain a conviction."
Fed.R.Crim.P. 29(a). A defendant "faces a nearly insurmountable hurdle
[because courts] consider the evidence in the light most
favorable to the Government, defer to the credibility
determination of the jury, and overturn a verdict only when the
record contains no evidence, regardless of how it is weighed,
from which the jury could find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."
United States v. Blassingame, 197 F.3d 271, 284 (7th Cir. 1999)
(quoting United States v. Moore, 115 F.3d 1348, 1363 (7th Cir.
1997)). Thus, in viewing the evidence in the light most favorable
to the Government, if "any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a
reasonable doubt," a defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal
should be denied. United States v. Benjamin, 116 F.3d 1204,
1206 (7th Cir. 1997).
Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33(a) provides that "[u]pon
the defendant's motion, the court may vacate any judgment and
grant a new trial if the interest of justice so requires." "[T]he
question whether to grant a new trial is committed to the
discretion of the district judge," United States v. Williams,
81 F.3d 1434, 1437 (7th Cir. 1996), and will only be reversed if
"there has been an error as a matter of law or a clear and
manifest abuse of discretion." United States v. Reed,
875 F.2d 107, 113 (7th Cir. 1989).
On May 8, 2003, Defendant was indicted for possessing a firearm
that traveled through interstate commerce in violation of
18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). The indictment described a particular firearm
allegedly made by the High Standard Company that was transported
in interstate commerce into the State of Illinois at some time
prior to the charged offense.
Before the trial, Defendant filed multiple motions. Defendant
filed a pre-trial motion to suppress evidence and quash his
arrest, which was denied by written opinion and after a
suppression hearing on March 16, 2004. United States v.
Humphreys, 2004 WL 527999 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 16, 2004). Defendant
also filed a motion to dismiss the indictment, whicht was denied
on December 11, 2003. Defendant further filed a motion in
limine and proposed jury instructions. In a March 24, 2004,
opinion, the motions in limine were granted in part and denied
in part; and Defendant's proposed jury instructions 1, 2, and 2a
were refused. United States v. Humphreys, 2004 WL 609796 (N.D.
Ill. Mar. 24, 2004). The Government filed pre-trial motions in limine seeking to
bar: (1) Defendant from introducing any evidence regarding the
penalty of the offense, and (2) argument or evidence at trial
relating to the method of search and seizure. Those motions were
granted on March 10, 2004.
At trial, Defendant stipulated that he was previously convicted
of a felony and contested the issue of whether or not he
possessed the firearm in question and whether the firearm
traveled through interstate commerce.
On the issue of whether Defendant possessed the firearm in
question, the jury heard testimony from Shawn Trimble and Chicago
Police Officers Joseph Schuler and Anthony Napolitano. Trimble is
the owner of Defendant's employer, Trimble Trucking Company.
These witnesses testified that: (1) Defendant arrived at Trimble
Trucking on December 11, 2002, with the firearm and showed it to
Trimble; (2) the firearm was removed from Defendant's bag; and
(3) Defendant admitted to the police that he had bought the
firearm for protection from a "Pops" for $75.
According to Defendant, evidence showed that Trimble, and not
Defendant, had possessed the firearm. Defendant claims the
evidence shows that he was "truckjacked" while making deliveries
for Trimble, and the truckjacker left the firearm in the truck.
When Defendant returned to Trimble Trucking and told Trimble
there was a firearm in the truck, Trimble told Defendant to place
the firearm in the bag. Defendant followed Trimble's directive,
and the police then arrived at Trimble Trucking. Trimble then
told the officers that Defendant had a gun in his bag, and the
officers discovered this gun after arresting Defendant. On the issue of whether the firearm traveled through interstate
commerce, the Government did not present direct evidence that the
gun was made outside of Illinois or was transported to Illinois.
The Government's witness on this issue, Agent Michael Casey of
the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, admitted on
cross-examination that he did not verify with the High Standard
Company, by using the firearm's serial number, that the firearm
in question was made by the High Standard Company outside of
Illinois. Agent Casey also admitted that guns are counterfeited
in the United States and Illinois.
However, Agent Casey, a witness who is knowledgeable in the
field of firearm identification, testified that the firearm in
question was manufactured by High Standard Manufacturing in
Connecticut; the firearm in question was not manufactured in
Illinois; the name of the manufacturer and the state where the
firearm in question was manufactured were stamped into the barrel
of the gun; the firearm in question was not counterfeit; and the
firearm in question traveled through interstate commerce. The
jury was also able to see the firearm in question and observe
that the firearm was stamped with "High Standard Mfg. Corp." and
"Hamden, Conn. USA" on its barrel. Agent Casey was found to be an
expert in the area of firearm identification without objection
Defendant was not permitted to introduce its Exhibit 2, a copy
of the police report prepared by Officer Schuler and approved and
signed by Officers Schuler and Napolitano, both who testified at
trial. However, Defendant was allowed to impeach these witnesses
with the report. Government objections to the introduction of
other evidence were also sustained, based upon earlier rulings.
Defendant's motion for a directed verdict of acquittal at the
close of the Government's case was denied. ANALYSIS
Defendant argues that there was insufficient evidence for a
conviction on the charged indictment because: (1) Trimble, rather
than Defendant, had a possessory interest in the firearm in
question; and (2) the Government was unable to prove that ...