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United States v. Arias-Rodriguez

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

November 21, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
JOSE ARIAS-RODRIGUEZ

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

AMY J. ST. EVE, District Judge.

Defendant Jose Arias-Rodriguez has moved for a judgment of acquittal, or, in the alternative, a new trial. For the reasons explained in detail below, the Court denies Defendant's motion.

BACKGROUND

On August 2, 2012, a grand jury returned an indictment again Jose Arias-Rodriguez charging him with two counts of illegally reentering the United States following deportation, in violation of 8 U.S.C. ยง 1326(a)(2). Count One of the Indictment charged Defendant with illegal re-entry on or about February 14, 2008, following deportation on November 25, 2002, and Count Two charged him with illegal re-entry on or about July 16, 2012, following the November 2002 deportation and a March 14, 2008 deportation.

Defendant proceeded to a jury trial. On September 10, 2014, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on both counts. Defendant now moves for a judgment of acquittal and a new trial.

ANALYSIS

I. Defendant Is Not Entitled to a Judgment of Acquittal

Defendant argues that he is entitled to a judgment of acquittal because the government failed to prove that Defendant was deported because no one testified that he observed Defendant crossing the border to Mexico. Because the government established this element beyond a reasonable doubt, Defendant's motion is denied.

A. Legal Standard

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. Jones, 713 F.3d 336, 339-40 (7th Cir. 2013); United States 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. Doody, 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 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, ...


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