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States v. Jones

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Austin Division

December 11, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
COY JONES, Defendant.

          ORDER

          SAM SPARKS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         BE IT REMEMBERED on this day the Court reviewed the file in the above-styled cause, and specifically, Defendant Coy Jones's Motion for Judgement of Acquittal or, Alternatively, Motion for New Trial [#79], the Government's Response [#80] in opposition, and Jones's Reply [#81] in support. Having reviewed the documents, the relevant law, the record at trial, and the case file as a whole, the Court now enters the following opinion and order.

         Background

         On November 2, 2017, after a four-day trial, Mr. Jones was convicted of all four counts of the Superseding Indictment: (1) possession with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(A); (2) conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846, 841(a)(1), and 841(b)(1)(A); (3) possession of a firearm by a felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2); and (4) possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A).

         Jones now files a motion arguing he is entitled to acquittal under Rule 29 or a new trial under Rule 33 because there is insufficient evidence to support conviction as to any of the counts and because the Court ostensibly erred in several of its evidentiary rulings. See generally FED. R. Crim. P. 29; FED. R. Crim. P. 33. This pending motion is now ripe for review.

         Analysis

         I. Legal Standard

         A. Motion for Judgment of Acquittal Under Rule 29

         "A motion for a judgment of acquittal challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to convict." United States v. Medina, 161 F.3d 867, 872 (5th Cir. 1998). In assessing such a motion, a court must determine "whether a reasonable jury could conclude that the relevant evidence, direct or circumstantial, established all of the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt when viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict." United States v. Loe, 262 F.3d 427, 432 (5th Cir. 2001). "The standard does not require that the evidence exclude every reasonable hypothesis of innocence or be wholly inconsistent with every conclusion except that of guilt, provided a reasonable trier of fact could find that the evidence establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt." Id. "A jury is free to choose among reasonable constructions of the evidence . . . [and] retains the sole authority to weigh any conflicting evidence and to evaluate the credibility of the witnesses." Id. (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).

         B. Motion for New Trial Under Rule 33

         If the evidence adduced at trial "preponderates sufficiently heavily against the verdict that a miscarriage of justice may have occurred, " the court may vacate the jury's guilty verdict and grant the defendant a new trial. United States v. Tarango, 396 F.3d 666, 672 (5th Cir. 2005) (citing United States v. Lincoln, 630 F.2d 1313, 1319 (8th Cir. 1990)). Although a motion for new trial is reviewed under a more lenient standard than a motion for judgment of acquittal, a court "may not reweigh the evidence and set aside the verdict simply because it feels some other result would be more reasonable." United States v. Robertson, 110 F.3d 1113, 1117-18 (5th Cir. 1997). To warrant a new trial, "[t]he evidence must preponderate heavily against the verdict, such that it would be a miscarriage of justice to let the verdict stand." Id. "[T]his power should be exercised infrequently by district courts, unless warranted by exceptional circumstances." Tarango, 396 F.3d at 672 (internal quotation marks omitted); see also United States v. Sanchez, 969 F.2d 1409, 1414 (2d Cir. 1992) (noting that to justify the grant a new trial, "[t]here must be a real concern that an innocent person may have been convicted").

         II. Application

         The Court first addresses Jones's challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence. The Court then turns to Jones's contention he is entitled to a new trial because the Court ostensibly erred in its evidentiary rulings.

         A. Sufficiency ...


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