Argued September 30, 2013.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 11 CR 382 -- Elaine E. Bucklo, Judge.
For UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellee: Peter Salib, Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Chicago, IL.
For MARCO PINEDA, Defendant - Appellant: Barry Levenstam, Attorney, JENNER & BLOCK LLP, Chicago, IL; Erica L. Ross, Attorney, JENNER & BLOCK LLP, Washington, DC.
Before WOOD, Chief Judge, and BAUER and KANNE, Circuit Judges.
Bauer, Circuit Judge.
Defendant-appellant, Marco Pineda (" Pineda" ), was convicted of being a felon
in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). He was sentenced to 115 months of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay a fine of $100. Pineda appealed the district court's judgment, arguing: (1) the court violated his right to a fair jury trial under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments when it struck the sole Hispanic member of the jury for cause and replaced him with an alternate during trial, and (2) the court committed procedural error by failing to adequately consider all of the factors under 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a)(1) at sentencing. We find no abuse of discretion or procedural error and affirm the district court's judgment.
The government prosecuted Pineda, who is Hispanic, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in a single-count indictment for possessing a firearm as a convicted felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Jury selection for Pineda's trial began on December 12, 2011.
During voir dire, the sole Hispanic juror in the venire, Felipe Vega (" Vega" ), revealed that his ability to speak and understand the English language was limited. One of the first statements Vega made to the court was, " I'm sorry. I don't speak English." Nonetheless, Vega generally was able to comprehend and answer the standard biographical questions posed to him in English by the district court judge. For example, Vega was able to explain that while he was born in Mexico, he is an American citizen and took his citizenship examination in English. Vega mentioned that he has lived in the United States for twenty years, works on a golf course, and occasionally watches local televised news in English. In spite of this, Vega acknowledged that he did not understand the introductory statements made by the court concerning the federal jury trial system. In addition, the court had trouble hearing and understanding Vega's responses and frequently asked him to repeat his answers. After the inquiry into his English language capabilities, the court determined that Vega required the assistance of an interpreter in order to meet the necessary requirements of jury service.
After questioning the rest of the jury venire, the government moved to strike Vega as a potential juror for cause. The defense objected, arguing that Vega should be left in the venire because " [Vega] answered the majority of [the court's] questions" and should be assigned an interpreter. The judge stated that she had never dealt with the use of an interpreter for a jury member before and would " have to look into it," but she was " not going to strike [Vega] right now without knowing." After concluding that she would not strike Vega from the venire at that point, the judge called Vega to a sidebar at which time he indicated that he " sometimes" understood the court's questions, but that he would like the assistance of an interpreter.
After the sidebar proceedings, the jury venire was excused from the courtroom. The government repeated its concern that Vega did not fully comprehend the court's statements or questions and so should be stricken for cause. The judge agreed that she had " some serious questions about what all [Vega] understood" and called Vega back into the courtroom. A Spanish interpreter was also brought to the courtroom to review the court's voir dire questions and introductory statements with a translation. Through the interpreter, Vega was able to respond to the court's questions without difficulty. The court then excused the interpreter and allowed Vega to rejoin the venire.
At this point, both parties provided the court with their peremptory strikes. Neither the government nor the defense used a peremptory challenge to remove Vega. The court therefore seated Vega on the jury and arranged for the interpreter to assist him during trial. The district ...