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United States of America v. Winston Martin

July 18, 2012

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
WINSTON MARTIN, A/K/A "BOSCOE"



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Amy J. St. Eve, District Court Judge:

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Defendant Martin has filed a motion for a new trial and for judgment of acquittal. For the reasons discussed below, Defendant's motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

On March 31, 2011, Defendants Winston Martin and Jason Hinton were charged in a two count Superseding Indictment. Count One charged them with conspiring with each other on June 3, 2008 to knowingly and intentionally distribute a controlled substance, namely 50 grams or more of mixtures and substances containing cocaine base in the form of crack cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. Count Two charged them with, on June 3, 2008, knowingly and intentionally distributing a controlled substance, namely 50 grams or more of mixtures and substances containing cocaine base in the form of crack cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 18 U.S.C. § 2. Both Defendants pled not guilty to the charges and ultimately proceeded to trial.

After a two day jury trial, on April 3, 2012, a jury convicted both Defendant Winston Martin and his co-defendant Jason Hinton of the federal drug trafficking charges. Specifically, as to Count I, the jury convicted Defendant Martin of conspiring with his co-defendant to knowingly and intentionally distribute crack cocaine and knowingly and intentionally distributing crack cocaine. The jury found that the government proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant Martin had conspired to distribute 50 grams or more of mixtures and substances containing cocaine base on Count One. Regarding Count Two, the jury found that the government proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant Martin had distributed 50 grams or more of mixtures and substances containing cocaine base.

Defendant now seeks a judgment of acquittal or a new trial.

ANALYSIS

I. Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29

A. Legal Standard

"In challenging the sufficiency of the evidence, [a defendant] bears a heavy, indeed, nearly insurmountable, burden." United States v. Warren, 593 F.3d 540, 546 (7th Cir. 2010); see also United States v. Dinga, 609 F.3d 904, 907 (7th Cir. 2010); United States v. Morris, 576 F.3d 661, 665-66 (7th Cir. 2009). "A defendant challenging the sufficiency of the evidence 'must convince [a court] that even after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, no rational trier of fact could have found him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.'" Warren, 593 F.3d at 546 (quoting United States v. Moore, 572 F.3d 334, 337 (7th Cir. 2009)); see also United States v. Eller, 670 F.3d 762, 765 (7th Cir. 2012) (stating that the evidence should be viewed "in the light most favorable to the prosecution"); United States v. Doody, 600 F.3d 752, 754 (7th Cir. 2010) (noting that a court reviewing a Rule 29 motion asks "whether evidence exists from which any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt").

In other words, a court will "set aside a jury's guilty verdict only if 'the record contains no evidence, regardless of how it is weighed,' from which a jury could have returned a conviction." United States v. Presbitero, 569 F.3d 691, 704 (7th Cir. 2009) (quoting United States v. Moses, 513 F.3d 727, 733 (7th Cir. 2008)); see also Warren, 593 F.3d at 546. In conducting the Rule 29 inquiry, courts "do not reassess the weight of the evidence or second-guess the trier of fact's credibility determinations." United States v. Arthur, 582 F.3d 713, 717 (7th Cir. 2009); see also United States v. Severson, 569 F.3d 683, 688 (7th Cir. 2009). This strict standard is a recognition that "[s]orting the facts and inferences is a task for the jury."*fn1 Warren, 593 F.3d at 547.

B. Defendant is Not Entitled to Judgment of Acquittal

In order to establish the offense of drug distribution in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), the government must prove three elements: "(1) knowing or intentional possession" of a controlled substance; (2) "possession of" the controlled substance "with intent to distribute it"; and (3) "knowledge that the material is a controlled substance." United States v. Campbell, 534 F.3d 599, 602 (7th Cir. 2008) (citing United States v. Banks, 405 F.3d 559, 569 (7th Cir. 2005)). To sustain the charge of conspiracy to distribute drugs in violation of 21 U.S.C § 846, the government must prove that "the defendant knowingly agreed-either implicitly or explicitly-with someone else to distribute drugs." United States v. Johnson, 592 F.3d 749, 754 (7th Cir. 2010).

During trial, the government introduced evidence that overwhelmingly established Defendant Martin's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. It established that he conspired with his co-defendant to distribute crack cocaine on June 3, 2008, and that he knowingly and intentionally distributed crack cocaine on that day. The government introduced recorded telephone conversations between Defendant, his co-defendant, and the Cooperating Individual ("CI") in which they discuss and set up the drug transaction. In these recorded calls, they discuss meeting at a specific McDonald's location in Chicago on June 3, 2008, where Defendant Martin agrees to give the CI crack cocaine in exchange for cash. As discussed in more detail below, Agent Hill, a witness for the government, identified Defendant's voice on these recorded conversations. In ...


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