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United States v. Moore

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

June 19, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
JAYSON HOWARD MOORE

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Sam A. Lindsay, United States District Judge.

         Before the court is Defendant's Motion for Judgment of Acquittal (“Motion for Acquittal”) or, in the Alternative, Motion for New Trial (“Motion for New Trial”) (collectively, “Motions”) (Doc. 284), which was docketed on August 24, 2018, and the supplements to the Motions (collectively, “Supplements”) (Docs. 285, 305, 328), [*] which were docketed on August 24, 2018; December 18, 2018; and February 28, 2019. After considering Defendant's Motions, Supplements, the Government's response, the record, and applicable law, the court denies Defendant's Motion for Judgment of Acquittal or, in the Alternative, Motion for New Trial, as well as the related relief requested by him in the Supplements to his Motions (Docs. 284, 285, 305, 328).

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         On November 18, 2015, a one-count Indictment charged Defendant Jayson Howard Moore (“Defendant” or “Moore”) with Felon in Possession of a Firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2)[1] to which Moore pleaded not guilty. Count One of the Superseding Indictment filed on May 30, 2018, charged Moore with the same criminal offense, to which Moore again pleaded not guilty. A jury trial was conducted from August 2, 2018, to August 7, 2018.[2] At the close of the Government's case on August 3, 2018, Moore made an oral motion in open court for a judgment of acquittal. Tr. Vol. 2A at 106-112. In denying the motion, the court explained that Moore's contentions pertained to credibility, which was for the jury to decide, not the court. On August 7, 2018, after a five-day trial, a jury found Moore guilty of the felon-in-possession offense charged in Count One of the Superseding Indictment.

         In his Motions that are the subject of this opinion, Moore seeks a judgment of acquittal or new trial under Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure 29(c) and 33. As noted, he filed three Supplements in support of the Motions, which were docketed on August 24, 2018; December 18, 2018; and February 28, 2019. On December 18, 2019, Moore also filed a motion to Recuse (Doc. 304) but subsequently withdrew the motion on February 7, 2019. On May 2, 2019, after the transcripts of the trial and pretrial conference were filed by the court reporter, the Government moved for leave to file its combined response to Defendant's Motions. The court granted the unopposed motion on May 29, 2019, and directed the clerk of the court to docket the Government's combined response, which was docketed the next day.

         II. Motion for Judgment of Acquittal

         Moore moves, pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29, for a judgment of acquittal, contending that, even viewing the evidence and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the Government, there is insufficient evidence to support the jury's guilty verdict on the felon-in-possession charge.

         A. Legal Standard

         A motion for judgment of acquittal under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29 challenges “the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain a conviction.” United States v. Uvalle-Patricio, 478 F.3d 699, 701 (5th Cir. 2007). “When the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence, ‘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.'” United States v. Miles, 360 F.3d 472, 476 (5th Cir. 2004) (quoting Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319(1979)). The court determines “only whether the jury made a rational decision, not whether its verdict was correct on the issue of guilt or innocence.” United States v. Dean, 59 F.3d 1479, 1484 (5th Cir. 1995) (citations omitted). “[I]f the fact finder was presented with sufficient evidence to support the verdict reached, that verdict must be upheld.” United States v. Lucio, 428 F.3d 519, 522 (5th Cir. 2005). “All reasonable inferences [that] tend to support the Government's case must be accepted. Any conflicts in the evidence must be resolved in the Government's favor.” United States v. Burns, 597 F.2d 939, 940-41 (5th Cir. 1979) (citations omitted).

         To establish a violation of Title 18, United States Code, sections 922(g)(1), the Government must prove three elements beyond a reasonable doubt: “(1) that the defendant previously had been convicted of a felony; (2) that he knowingly possessed a firearm; and (3) that the firearm traveled in or affected interstate commerce.” United States v. Meza, 701 F.3d 411, 418 (5th Cir. 2012) (citations omitted). Willfulness is not an element of this offense. See 18 U.S.C. § 924(a)(2). The Government need only prove that the defendant knew he possessed a firearm or ammunition, not that he had knowledge of his status as a qualifying felon or that the firearm traveled in or affected interstate commerce. United States v. Potts, 644 F.3d 233, 237 (5th Cir. 2011) (citing United States v. Rose, 587 F.3d 695, 706 & n.9 (5th Cir. 2009)). For purposes of § 922(g)(1), the term “firearm” means: “(A) any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; (B) the frame or receiver of any such weapon; (C) any firearm muffler or firearm silences; or (D) any destructive device.” United States v. Castillo-Rivera, 853 F.3d 218, 225 (5th Cir. 2017) (quoting 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(3)). “[O]nly a ‘minimal nexus' between the firearm and interstate commerce” is required to satisfy the statute's interstate nexus requirement. United States v. Gresham, 118 F.3d 258, 264 (5th Cir. 1997) (citation and footnote omitted). The interstate commerce element of a charge under section 922(g)(1) is satisfied when the Government demonstrates that the firearm was manufactured out of state. United States v. Guidry, 406 F.3d 314, 318 (5th Cir. 2005).

         B. Grounds for Acquittal

         1. Evidence Firearm(s) Traveled in or Affected Interstate Commerce

         Moore's Motion for Acquittal focuses on the third element of the charged offense, whether a firearm or firearms traveled in or affected interstate commerce. With respect to this element, Moore contends that the Government's evidence was insufficient because: (1) there was no “reliable evidence at trial presented to prove that the alleged firearms actually affected interstate commerce”; (2) “no reasonable jury could have concluded that interstate commerce was affected based on [Special] Agent [Scott] Satcher's contradicting testimony alone”; and (3) Agent Satcher's testimony was unreliable because he was not involved in the case until April 2018, did not know certain facts about the investigation of the firearms, admitted to writing his report before examining the firearms in question despite testifying that he normally examines firearms before writing his report, and no certifications or licenses were provided by him to show he was qualified to provide an interstate commerce opinion. Def.'s Mot. for Acquittal 2-3. Moore also contends that the Government “failed to produce any tracing reports, ballistic reports, or pictures of firearms that indicate the firearms had ever been examined or were firearms at all.” Id. at 2.

         In the Third Supplement to his Motion for Acquittal, Moore further asserts that the Government's evidence was insufficient to prove that interstate commerce was affected because Agent Satcher's expert testimony was deficient and unreliable for the following reasons: (1) Agent Satcher was not involved in the original investigation of the charged offense; and (2) his report and testimony did not satisfy Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(A)(2)(B); Federal Rule of Evidence 702; and Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993). Moore contends that Agent Satcher's testimony that the firearms affected interstate commerce cannot be the product of reliable principles and methods if he never actually examined the firearms.

         The Government responds that, while Defendant's Motion for Acquittal focuses on whether it proved that any of the firearms “affected” interstate commerce, it was only required to prove either that a firearm traveled in or affected interstate commerce, not both. The Government also contends that the credibility of Agent Satcher's testimony is not an appropriate ground for acquittal because the jury is the final arbiter of witness credibility, not the court, and the law does not permit courts to make credibility determinations contrary to the jury's verdict when reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence. The Government maintains that, because the court correctly instructed the jury on how to assess the credibility of witnesses in this case, the jury is presumed to have followed that instruction. The Government further asserts that Moore did not previously object to Agent Satcher's testimony on the grounds that it did not comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(A)(2)(B), Federal Rule of Evidence 702, or Daubert, and he did not request the court to conduct a Daubert hearing. The Government, therefore, argues that Moore waived this objection, and review of any such alleged error or errors is limited to review for plain error. The Government contends that Moore cannot establish plain error because Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 16(a)(1)(F) and (G) apply to expert disclosures and discovery in criminal cases, not Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26, and Agent Satcher's testimony met or exceeded Rule 702's and Daubert's requirements for expert testimony.

         Regardless of whether this issue was previously raised, it is an insufficient basis to justify a judgment of acquittal. As the court explained in its instructions to the jury and in ruling on Defendant's oral motion for judgment of acquittal, jurors are the sole judges of witness credibility and believability and the weight to be given to witness testimony. Court's Instructions to the Jury 5-6 (Doc. 281); Tr. Vol. 2A at 109-10. Jurors are presumed to follow instructions provided by a district court. Weeks v. Angelone, 528 U.S. 225, 234 (2000) (citing Richardson v. Marsh, 481 U.S. 200, 211 (1987)). As “the jury is the arbiter of [the] credibility of witnesses, ” the “trial judge cannot ...


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