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United States v. Carter

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

April 27, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
LONDON CARTER, SECTION: R

ORDER AND REASONS

SARAH S. VANCE, District Judge.

Defendant London Carter moves the Court to reconsider its previous denial of his motion to sever his trial from that of his codefendant Walter Porter. Because the Court finds that Carter has failed to show that a joint trial would compromise a specific trial right, the Court DENIES Carter's re-urged motion for severance.

I. Background

On February 6, 2014, the grand jury returned the Third Superseding Indictment, which names three defendants and includes six charges.[1] Count I charges Walter Porter, Robert Taylor, and London Carter with conspiracy to commit armed bank robbery. It details two bank robberies-one committed on July 6, 2011 and one August 26, 2011-as overt acts committed in furtherance of the conspiracy. Count II charges Porter and Taylor with commission of the July 6, 2011 robbery, and Count III charges the two with use of a firearm during the commission of that robbery.[2] Count IV charges Porter and Carter with commission of the August 26, 2011 robbery, and Count V charges them with use of a firearm during the commission of that robbery. Count VI charges Porter with conspiracy to commit money laundering.

On November 20, 2013, Carter joined his co-defendants' motion to sever their cases from that of Walter Porter, arguing that evidence against Porter would "spill over" into their cases causing undue prejudice.[3] The Court denied the motion to sever on December 18, 2013.[4] Carter now moves the Court to reconsider that decision, and sever Carter's case from that of Porter. Carter does not re-urge the "spill over" argument, but instead contends that a severance is warranted because (1) there have been multiple continuances of trial since the instigation of charges against him, (2) his codefendant Porter has been unavailable for trial for an extended period of time, and (3) he wants his day in Court.[5]

II. Standard

"Motions to reconsider in criminal cases are judicial creations not derived from any statute or rule." United States v. Salinas, 665 F.Supp.2d 717, 720 (W.D. Tex. 2009) (citing United States v. Brewer, 60 F.3d 1142, 1143-44 (5th Cir. 1995)). Although the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure do not explicitly authorize motions for reconsideration, district courts possess continuing jurisdiction over criminal cases and are free to reconsider their earlier decisions. United States v. Scott, 524 F.2d 465, 467 (5th Cir. 1975). Nevertheless, motions for reconsideration "serve the narrow purpose of allowing a party to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence." United States v. Banks, No. 1:08-cr-113, 2009 WL 585506, at *1 (E.D. Tex. Mar. 6, 2009) (citations and internal quotations omitted). Accordingly, "[t]here is a high burden of proof on the party seeking reconsideration in order to discourage litigants from making repetitive arguments on issues already considered." Salinas, 665 F.Supp.2d at 720 (internal quotations omitted).

III. Discussion

Rule 14 provides that a court may order the severance of defendants' trials "[i]f the joinder of offenses or defendants in an indictment, an information, or a consolidation for trial appears to prejudice a defendant or the government[.]" Fed. R. Crim. P. 14(a). But Rule 14 does not require severance even if prejudice is shown. Rather, "it leaves the tailoring of the relief to be granted, if any, to the district court's sound discretion." Zafiro v. United States, 506 U.S. 534, 538-39 (1993). In exercising that discretion, the district court is to "balance the right of a defendant to a fair trial against the interests of judicial economy." United States v. Zicree, 605 F.2d 1381, 1388 (5th Cir. 1979).

When the Government indicts defendants together, there is a preference for joint trials of the defendants. Zafiro, 506 U.S. at 537. Courts have generally held that when defendants are indicted together, they should be tried together. United States v. McCord, 33 F.3d 1434, 1452 (5th Cir. 1994). This is especially true when the defendants are charged with the same conspiracy. See id. The Supreme Court has directed a district court to sever charges "only if there is a risk that a joint trial would compromise a specific right of one of the defendants, or prevent the jury from making a reliable judgment about guilt or innocence." Zafiro, 506 U.S. at 539. The defendant carries the "heavy burden" of showing "specific and compelling prejudice." United States v. Mitchell, 31 F.3d 271, 276 (5th Cir. 1994).

In his motion for reconsideration, Carter does not identify any manifest errors of law or fact in the Court's initial decision denying his motion for severance. Instead, Carter offers a new theory as to why severance is warranted:

[C]o-defendant Porter's continued and extended unavailability for trial, as well as the numerous and repeated continuances of the trial in this matter are sufficient grounds for a severance, since under those circumstances London Carter is prejudiced by not being able to move forward and have his day in court.[6]

Although Carter does not cite any case law or indicate what specific right a joint trial would compromise, the Court construes Carter's argument as an appeal to his rights under the Speedy Trial Act and the Sixth Amendment. See United States v. Frye, 489 F.3d 201, 211 (5th Cir. 2007) (the assertion of the speedy trial right generally ...


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