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United States v. Hatfield

January 12, 2009

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
REX HATFIELD AND EVERLY HATFIELD, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Herndon, Chief Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

I. Introduction

Before the Court is Defendants Rex Hatfield and Everly Hatfield's joint Motion for New Trial (Doc. 196),*fn1 filed pursuant to FEDERAL RULE OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE 33, to which the Government has filed its opposing Response (Doc. 198). Having reviewed the motion and all of the briefs in support and in opposition, the Court, in its discretion, has determined that a hearing on Defendants' joint motion (Doc. 196) is unnecessary. See United States v. Hedman, 655 F.2d 813, 814 (7th Cir. 1981).

Rex Hatfield and Everly Hatfield were found guilty by a jury as to Counts 1 and 2 (Docs. 170 & 172, 171 & 173) of the Superseding Indictment (Doc. 43). Count 1 charged Rex Hatfield and Everly Hatfield with conspiracy to commit pharmacy burglaries in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2118(b) and (d). Count 2 charged Defendants with conspiracy to knowingly and intentionally posses with intent to distribute, and to distribute diverse amounts of oxycodone, fentanyl, methadone, morphine, and cocaine, Schedule II Controlled Substances, hydrocodone, a Schedule III Controlled Substance, and alprazalam, a Schedule IV Controlled Substance.

Regarding the jury's finding of "guilty" as to Count 2, the Special Verdicts found that Deborah Ann Smith, Mark D. Honaker, and Carol S. Walker died from ingesting controlled substances which Rex Hatfield had distributed to them (Docs. 174, 175, & 176). A separate Special Verdict also found that Richard F. Ward suffered serious bodily injury from ingesting controlled substances which Rex Hatfield had distributed to him (Doc. 177). Separate Special Verdicts also found that Carol S. Walker and Jimmy L. Dishmon died from ingesting controlled substances which Everly Hatfield had distributed to them (Docs. 178 & 180). A separate Special Verdict found that Richard F. Ward suffered serious bodily injury from ingesting controlled substances which Everly Hatfield had distributed to him (Doc. 181). However, in a separate Special Verdict also regarding Count 2, the jury did not find that Christopher P. Allen died from ingesting controlled substances which Everly Hatfield had distributed to him (Doc. 179). Both Rex Hatfield and Everly Hatfield now await sentencing for their convictions as well as resolution of this post trial motion.

II. Legal Standard

Under FEDERAL RULE OF CRIMINAL PROCEDURE 33, a defendant may move for a new trial. Upon review, the Court "may vacate any judgment and grant a new trial if the interest of justice so requires." FED.R.CRIM.P.33(a). If the basis for seeking a new trial is not due to new evidence, then the Court must determine if a new trial is warranted because there exists a "reasonable possibility that a trial error had a prejudicial effect upon the jury's verdict." United States v. Van Eyl, 468 F.3d 428, 436 (7th Cir. 2006) (citing United States v. Berry, 92 F.3d 597, 600 (7th Cir. 1996)). A new trial may also be warranted where "trial errors or omissions have jeopardized the defendant's substantial rights." United States v. Reed, 986 F.2d 191, 192 (7th Cir. 1993) (citing United States v. Kuzniar, 881 F.2d 466, 470 (7th Cir. 1989)). Such a determination is completely within the Court's sound discretion. U.S. v. Reed. 875 F.2d 107, 113 (7th Cir. 1989) (citing United States v. Nero, 733 F.2d 1197, 1202 (7th Cir. 1984)). However, the Court should be mindful that the power bestowed by Rule 33 to grant a new trial should only be done in the "most 'extreme cases.'" United States v. Linwood, 142 F.3d 418, 422 (7th Cir. 1998) (quoting United States v. Morales, 902 F.2d 604, 605 (7th Cir. 1990)).

III. Discussion

According to Defendants, justice requires that a new trial be granted based on "erroneous jury instructions relating to the special jury verdicts as well as the cumulative effects of erroneous evidentiary rulings pertaining to evidence relevant to both counts" (Doc. 196, p. 1). Defendants have not offered any new arguments or new evidence in support of his motion. As such, the Court stands by its previous rulings and the reasoning offered in support of each of the following rulings:

A. Jury Instructions

1. Government's Instruction 30A

Defendants first submit that the court erred in instructing the jury in accordance with the Government's proffered jury instruction 30A. Specifically, Defendants assert that the third paragraph of the instruction, stating that the Government must prove that the controlled substances distributed by the defendants "was a factor that resulted in death or serious bodily injury" and that the control "must at least have played a part in the death or serious bodily injury," was at odds with the plain language of the statute and lowered the government's burden of proof. Defendants rely on the First Circuit cases United States v. Soler, 275 F.3d 146, 152 n.3 (1st Cir. 2002) and United States v. De La Cruz, 514 f.3d 121, 138 (1st Cir. 2008) for their proposition. Defendants further assert that the 8th Circuit case United States v. Monnier, 412 F.3d 859, 862 (8th Cir. 2005), which endorses the language in jury Instruction 30A, was wrongly decided.

The Government, on the other hand, asserts that the jury instruction relied in part upon Soler and that the instruction was not in conflict with the First Circuit, citing United States v. Wall, 349 F.3d 18 (1st Cir. 2003), cert. denied, 541 U.S. 965 (2004). In Walls, the First Circuit stated that an instruction requiring the jury to find that the drugs played a "significant causal role" was too stringent rather than understated the government's burden as Wall's suggested. Id. at 24. The First Circuit specifically stated that both statute and precedent "link the jury's finding simply to whether death was a result of the offense." Id.

The Court agrees with the Government's reasoning. By the terms of the statute, the "statute of conviction applies whenever 'death...results' from the use of drugs supplied by the defendant." Soler, 275 F.3d at 152. A number of the Circuits have found that 21 U.S.C. § 841 (b)(1)(C)'s enhancement applies without "regard to the principles of proximate cause or the foreseeability of death or serious bodily injury."U.S. v. McIntosh, 236 F.2d 968, 973 (8th Cir. 2001) (reviewing the identical language of 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(A)); See also U.S. v. Patterson, 38 F.3d 139, 145 (4th Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 514 U.S. 1113 (1995); U.S. v. Robinson, 167 F.3d 824, 831 (3d Cir. 1999). Further, the Court found that Instruction 30A was an accurate statement of the law . The Court also found that given the evidence elicited by the defense about suicide, long-time addiction, and potential overdose, ...


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