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United States v. Alabi

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division

April 24, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
FOLARIN H. ALABI, et al.,

          JURY INSTRUCTIONS

          Lee H. Rosenthal, Chief United States District Judge

         Members of the Jury:

         You have now heard the evidence in the case. It is my duty to instruct you on the rules of law that you must follow and apply in arriving at your decision in the case.

         In any jury trial there are, in effect, two judges. I am one of the judges; the other is the jury. It is my duty to preside over the trial and to decide what testimony and evidence is relevant under the law for your consideration. It is also my duty at the end of the trial to explain to you the rules of law that you must follow and apply in arriving at your verdict.

         First, I will give you some general instructions that apply in every case, for example, instructions about the burden of proof and how to judge the believability of witnesses. Then I will give you some specific instructions on the law that applies in this case. I will then give you final instructions explaining the procedures for you to follow in your deliberations.

         GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS

         You, as jurors, are the judges of the facts. But in determining what actually happened-that is, in reaching your decision as to the facts-it is your sworn duty to follow all of the rules of law as I explain them to you. You have no right to disregard, or give special attention to, any one instruction, or to question the wisdom or correctness of any rule I may state to you. You must not substitute or follow your own notion or opinion as to what the law is or ought to be. It is your duty to apply the law as I explain it to you, regardless of the consequences. It is also your duty to base your verdict solely on the evidence, without prejudice or sympathy. That was the promise you made and the oath you took before being accepted by the parties as jurors, and they have the right to expect nothing less.

         The indictment, or formal charge, against a defendant is not evidence of guilt. Indeed, each defendant is presumed by the law to be innocent. Each defendant begins with a clean slate. The law does not require a defendant to prove his or her innocence or produce any evidence at all, and no inference whatever may be drawn from the election of a defendant not to testify.

         The prosecution has the burden of proving a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and if the prosecution fails to do so, you must acquit that defendant. While the prosecution's burden of proof is a strict or heavy burden, it is not necessary that the defendant's guilt be proved beyond all possible doubt. It is only required that the prosecution's proof exclude any “reasonable doubt” about the defendant's guilt.

         A “reasonable doubt” is a doubt based on reason and common sense after careful and impartial consideration of all the evidence in the case. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt, therefore, is proof of such a convincing character that you would be willing to rely and act upon it without hesitation in making the most important decisions of your own affairs.

         As I told you earlier, it is your duty to determine the facts. To do so, you must consider only the evidence presented during the trial. Evidence is the sworn testimony of the witnesses, including stipulations, and the exhibits. The questions, statements, objections, and arguments made by the lawyers are not evidence. The function of the lawyers is to point out those things that are most helpful to their side of the case, and in so doing to call your attention to certain facts or inferences that might otherwise escape your notice. In the final analysis, however, it is your own recollection and interpretation of the evidence that controls in this case. What the lawyers say is not binding on you.

         During the trial, I sustained objections to certain questions and exhibits. You must disregard those questions and exhibits entirely. Do not speculate as to what the witness would have said if permitted to answer the question or as to the contents of an exhibit. Certain testimony or other evidence was ordered removed from the record and you were instructed to disregard this evidence. Do not consider any testimony or other evidence that was removed from your consideration in reaching your decision. Your verdict must be based solely on the legally admissible evidence.

         Also, do not assume from anything I did or said during the trial that I have any opinion about any of the issues in this case. Except for my instructions to you on the law, you should disregard anything I said during the trial in arriving at your own verdict.

         In considering the evidence, you are permitted to draw such reasonable inferences from the testimony and exhibits as you feel are justified in the light of common experience. In other words, you may make deductions and reach conclusions that reason and common sense lead you to draw from the facts that have been established by the evidence.

         Do not be concerned about whether the evidence is “direct evidence” or “circumstantial evidence.” You should consider and weigh all of the evidence that was presented to you. “Direct evidence” is the testimony of one who asserts actual knowledge of a fact, such as an eyewitness. “Circumstantial evidence” is proof of a chain of events and circumstances indicating that something is or is not a fact. The law makes no distinction between the weight you may give to either direct or circumstantial evidence. But the law requires that you, after weighing all of the evidence, whether direct or circumstantial, be convinced of the guilt of the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt before you can find him or her guilty.

         I remind you that it is your job to decide whether the prosecution has proved the guilt of one or more of the defendants beyond a reasonable doubt. In doing so, you must consider all of the evidence. This does not mean, however, that you must accept all of the evidence as true or accurate.

         You are the sole judges of the credibility or “believability” of each witness and the weight to be given the witness's testimony. An important part of your job as jurors will be making judgments about the testimony of the witnesses. You should decide whether you believe all, some part, or none of what each person had to say and how important that testimony was.

         In making that decision, I suggest that you ask yourself a few questions. Did the witness impress you as honest? Did the witness have any particular reason not to tell the truth? Did the witness have a personal interest in the outcome of the case? Did the witness have any relationship with either the prosecution or the defense? Did the witness seem to have a good memory? Did the witness clearly see or hear the things about which he or she testified? Did the witness have the opportunity and ability to understand the questions clearly and answer them directly? Did the witness's testimony differ from the testimony of other witnesses? These are a few of the considerations that will help you determine the accuracy of what each witness said.

         Your job is to think about the testimony of each witness you have heard and decide how much you believe of what each witness had to say. In making up your mind and reaching a verdict, do not make any decisions simply because there were more witnesses on one side than on the other. Do not reach a conclusion on a particular point just because there were more witnesses testifying for one side on that point. You must always bear in mind that the law never imposes on a defendant in a criminal case the burden or duty of calling any witnesses or producing any evidence. When a defendant does not testify, you may not consider that fact for any purpose in your deliberations.

         The testimony of a witness who is shown to have used addictive drugs during the period of time about which the witness testified must always be examined and weighed by the jury with greater care and caution than the testimony of ordinary witnesses. You should never convict any defendant upon the unsupported testimony of such a witness unless you believe that testimony beyond a reasonable doubt.

         The testimony of a witness may be discredited by showing that the witness testified falsely, or by evidence that at some other time, the witness said or did something, or failed to say or do something, which is inconsistent with the testimony the witness gave at this trial. Earlier statements of a witness were not admitted in evidence to prove that the contents of those statements are true. You may not consider the earlier statements to prove that the content of an earlier statement is true. Rather, you may use earlier statements only to determine whether they are consistent or inconsistent with the witness's trial testimony and therefore whether they affect that witness's credibility. If you believe that a witness has been discredited in this manner, it is your exclusive right to give that witness's testimony whatever weight you think it deserves.

         When a defendant has offered evidence of good general reputation for truth and veracity, honesty and integrity, or character as a law-abiding citizen, you should consider that evidence along with all the other evidence in the case. Evidence of a defendant's character, inconsistent with those traits of character ordinarily involved in the commission of the crime charged, may give rise to a reasonable doubt, since you may think it improbable that a person of good character with respect to those traits would commit such a crime.

         You have heard the testimony of Anisha Gable. You also heard testimony from others concerning their opinion about whether Anisha Gable is a truthful person. It is up to you to decide from what you heard here whether Anisha Gable was telling the truth in this trial. In deciding this, you should bear in mind the testimony concerning this witness's truthfulness, as well as all the other factors already mentioned.

         You, the jury, must always examine and weigh the testimony of one who provides evidence against a defendant to obtain a potential benefit, including a potential personal advantage, with greater care and caution than the testimony of other witnesses. You must decide whether such a witness's testimony has been affected by these circumstances, by the witness's interest in the outcome of the case, by prejudice against one or more defendants, or by the benefit that the witness hopes or expects to receive. Such testimony must always be received with caution and weighed with great care. You may not convict any defendant on the unsupported testimony of such a witness, unless you believe that testimony beyond a reasonable doubt.

         You will note that the indictment charges that some of the offenses were committed on or about a specified date. The prosecution does not have to prove that a crime was committed on the exact date, so long as the prosecution proves beyond a reasonable doubt that one or more defendants committed the crimes alleged in the indictment reasonably near the dates stated in the indictment.

         If a defendant is found guilty, it is my duty to decide what the punishment will be. You may not be concerned with punishment in any way. It may not enter your consideration or discussion.

         If you have taken notes, they should be used only as memory aids. You should not give your notes precedence over your independent recollection of the evidence. If you have not taken notes, you should rely on your own independent recollection of the proceedings and you should not be unduly influenced by the notes of other jurors.

         SPECIFIC INSTRUCTIONS FOR THIS CASE

         Instructions that Apply to More Than One Count

         There are three defendants in this case: Mr. Folarin Alabi, Ms. Letrishia Andrews-Daniel, and Mr. Justice Daniel. You are here to decide whether the prosecution has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that one or more of the defendants is guilty of the crimes charged. The defendants are not on trial for any act, conduct, or offense not alleged in the indictment. You are not called on to decide the guilt of any person not on trial as a defendant in this case, except as you are otherwise instructed.

         Count 1 charges all three defendants. The remaining counts, Counts 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8, charge individual defendants. You must consider each count and the evidence pertaining to it separately. The fact that you may find one defendant guilty or not guilty of any of the counts charged may not control your verdict as to the other counts charged as to the other defendants. The fact that you may find one defendant guilty or not guilty as to one of the counts may not control your verdict on the other counts against that defendant.

         The prosecution called several witnesses who are alleged accomplices and co-conspirators. These witnesses are Charles Warren, who was named as a co-defendant in this indictment, and Shakietha Joseph and Anisha Nicole Gable, who were named in other indictments. The prosecution has entered into plea agreements with all three of these witnesses. These agreements provide for the dismissal of some charges, no further prosecution of the conduct charged in the indictment, and the possibility that the prosecution might recommend a lower sentence than the witnesses might otherwise receive. This kind of plea bargaining, as it is called, has been approved as lawful and proper, and it is expressly provided for in the rules of this court.

         If the prosecution files a motion in a pending federal criminal case stating that the defendant in that case has provided substantial assistance in the investigation or prosecution of another person who has committed an offense, the court sentencing the defendant may reduce the sentence that would otherwise apply. The court decides whether and how much to reduce a sentence by evaluating the significance and usefulness of the defendant's assistance, taking into consideration the prosecution's evaluation of the assistance and the truthfulness, completeness, and reliability of any information or testimony the defendant provided, and the timeliness of the assistance.

         A Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure provides that the prosecution may file a motion under the rule within one year of sentencing, asking the sentencing court to reduce the sentence if the defendant, after sentencing, provided substantial assistance in investigating or prosecuting another person. The prosecution may also make such a motion more than one year after sentencing if the defendant's substantial assistance involved information not known to the defendant until one year or more after sentencing; information the defendant provided the prosecution within one year of sentencing, that did not become useful to the prosecution until more than one year after sentencing, or information the usefulness of which could not reasonably have been anticipated by the defendant until more than one year after sentencing and which was promptly provided to the prosecution after its usefulness was reasonably apparent to the defendant.

         A defendant who has entered into a plea agreement with the prosecution is not prohibited from testifying. On the contrary, the testimony of such a witness may alone be of sufficient weight to sustain a verdict of guilty. You should keep in mind that such testimony is always to be received with caution and weighed with great care. You should never convict a defendant on the unsupported testimony of such a witness unless you believe that testimony beyond a reasonable doubt. The fact that an accomplice has entered a plea of guilty to the offense charged is not evidence of the guilt of any other person.

         During the trial you heard the testimony of Marva Hebert, who expressed opinions concerning marriage fraud and the immigration process. If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge might assist the jury in understanding the evidence or in determining a fact in issue, a witness qualified by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify and state an opinion concerning such matters. Merely because such a witness has expressed an opinion does not mean, however, that you must accept this opinion. You should judge such testimony like any other testimony. You may accept it or reject it and give it as much weight as you think it deserves, considering the witness's education and experience, the soundness of the reasons given for the opinion, and all other evidence in the case.

         The word “knowingly, ” as used throughout these instructions, means that the act was done voluntarily and ...


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