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United States v. Sands

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

June 18, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
OTTRIEZ SANDS, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

AMY J. ST. EVE, District Judge.

A one-count indictment charged Defendant Ottriez Sands with being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. ยง 922(g)(1). On April 29, 2014, the jury returned a verdict of guilty against Defendant. Defendant now moves for a judgment of acquittal or a motion for a new trial. For the reasons discussed below, Defendant's motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

On April 10, 2013, a grand jury returned a one count indictment against Defendant Sands, charging him with being a felon in possession of a firearm. On April 28, 2014, Defendant Sands proceeded to trial. After a two day jury trial, the jury returned a verdict of guilty against Defendant Sands.

LEGAL STANDARD

I. Motion for Judgment of Acquittal - Rule 29

Rule 29(a) provides that, "[a]fter the government closes its evidence or after the close of all the evidence, the court on the defendant's motion must enter a judgment of acquittal of any offense for which the evidence is insufficient to sustain a conviction." Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(a). When, as here, a defendant makes a Rule 29(a) motion at the close of the government's case, and the court reserves decision, the court "must decide the motion on the basis of the evidence at the time the ruling was reserved." Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(b).

"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. Torres-Chavez, 744 F.3d 988, 993 (7th Cir. 2014) ("The movant faces a nearly insurmountable hurdle"); United States v. Jones, 713 F.3d 336, 339-40 (7th Cir. 2013); U.S. v. Berg, 640 F.3d 239, 246 (7th Cir. 2011); 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). The reviewing court will view the "evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, " and the defendant "must convince' the court that, even in that light, 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); United States v. Dood y, 600 F.3d 752, 754 (7th Cir. 2010) (stating that the inquiry is "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.

It follows that under Rule 29, 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." Warren, 593 F.3d at 547. The Seventh Circuit teaches that:

[t]he critical inquiry on review of the sufficiency of the evidence to support a criminal conviction must be not simply to determine whether the jury was properly instructed, but to determine whether the record evidence could reasonably support a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. But this inquiry does not require a court to ask itself whether it believes that the evidence at the trial established guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, the relevant question is whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

Moore, 572 F.3d at 337 (quoting Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 318-19, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560 (1979)).

II. Motion for a New Trial - Rule 33

Rule 33 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure 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." Fed. R. Crim. P. 33(a); see also United States v. Berg, 714 F.3d 490, 500-01 (7th Cir. 2013); United States v. Smith, 674 F.3d 722 (7th Cir. 2012) (reviewing a district court's order on a Rule 33 motion for abuse of discretion); United States v. McGee, 408 F.3d 966, 979 (7th Cir. 2005). "[C]ourts have interpreted [Rule 33] to require a new trial in the interests of justice in a variety of situations in which the substantial rights of the defendant have been jeopardized by errors or omissions during trial.'" United States v. Eberhart, 388 F.3d 1043, 1048 (7th Cir. 2004) (quoting United States v. Kuzniar, 881 F.2d 466, 470 (7th Cir. 1989)), overruled on other grounds, 546 U.S. 12, 126 S.Ct. 403, 163 L.Ed.2d 14 (2005).

"A jury verdict in a criminal case is not to be overturned lightly, and therefore a Rule 33 motion is not to be granted lightly.'" Eberhart, 388 F.3d at 1048 (quoting United States v. Santos, 20 F.3d 280, 285 (7th Cir. 1994)). The court may grant a new trial if the jury's verdict is so contrary to the weight of the evidence that a new trial is required in the interest of justice.'" United States v. Washington, 184 F.3d 653, 657 (7th Cir. 1999) ("The focus in a motion for a new trial is not on whether the testimony is so incredible that it should have been excluded. Rather, the court considers whether the verdict is against the manifest weight of the evidence, taking into account the credibility of the witnesses."); see also United States v. Chambers, 642 F.3d 588, 592 (7th Cir. 2011). Put another way, "[t]he court should grant a motion for a new trial only if the evidence preponderate[s] heavily against the verdict, such that it would be a miscarriage of justice to let the verdict stand.'" United States v. Swan, 486 F.3d 260, 266 (7th Cir. 2007) (quoting United States v. Reed, 875 F.2d 107, 113 (7th Cir. 1989)).

ANALYSIS

As an initial matter, Defendant has raised multiple arguments, many in one simple sentence. He has not developed many of these arguments. The Seventh Circuit has made clear that undeveloped and merely perfunctory arguments like this are waived. See United States v. Hassebrock, 663 F.3d 906, 914 (7th Cir. 2011) (finding the argument was "decidedly underdeveloped and therefore waived"); United States v. Foster, 652 F.3d 776, 792 (7th Cir. 2011) ("As we have said numerous times, undeveloped arguments are deemed waived[.]") (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). See also Willis v. Lepine, 687 F.3d 826, 836 (7th Cir. 2012) ("Merely reciting the Rule 59(a) standard and then tossing the motion into the court's lap is not enough. Failure to adequately present an issue to the district court waives the issue on appeal."); United States v. Berkowitz, 927 F.2d 1376, 1384 (7th Cir. 1991) ("We repeatedly have made clear that perfunctory and undeveloped arguments, and arguments that are unsupported by pertinent authority, are waived..."). Despite Defendant's waiver of some of these arguments, the Court will address each argument to the extent possible. In addition, the the Court incorporates by reference its prior rulings on some of these issues.

I. Pretrial Rulings

A. Motion to Quash

On November 18, 2013, following a hearing, the Court denied Defendant's motion to quash his arrest and suppress all evidence recovered during the search of his vehicle. (R. 32.) The Court issued a detailed ruling addressing ...


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