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United States v. Reed

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Lafayette Division

April 3, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
CAREY WARDELL REED

          HANNA MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

          RULING

          REBECA F. DOHERTY DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the court is a Motion for New Trial [Rec. Doc. 155] filed by defendant Carey Reed. Mr. Reed asserts he was substantially prejudiced and deprived of a fair trial by several enumerated errors by the court. The Government has filed an opposition to the motion [Rec. Doc. 156]. For the following reasons, Mr. Reed's Motion for New Trial [Rec. Doc. 155] is denied.

         A. Procedural History

         On May 28, 2015, Mr. Reed was charged with three counts of interference with commerce by robbery and three counts of either using, carrying, brandishing, or discharging a firearm during and related to a crime of violence. Mr. Reed's trial began on February 6, 2017. During trial, in response to the admission of evidence provided late by the Government, Mr. Reed moved for mistrial. After hearing argument and considering alternatives, this Court denied the motion, but recessed the trial until March 6, 2017, to allow Mr. Reed's counsel to alleviate any prejudice that might have arisen through conduct by counsel for the Government. On March 7, 2017, Mr. Reed was convicted by a jury of all six counts. Mr. Reed filed his motion for new trial on March 16, 2017. Counsel for the Government filed its opposition on March 24, 2017.

         B. Applicable Law

         Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33(a) allows a court to "vacate any judgment and grant a new trial if the interest of justice so requires." "A new trial is not required by the interest of justice unless there would be a miscarriage of justice or the weight of evidence preponderates against the verdict... [ultimately, the decision to grant or deny a motion for new trial based on the weight of the evidence is within the sound discretion of the trial court. United States v. Chapman, No. 15-30538, 2017 WL 958312 (5th Cir. Mar. 10, 2017) (internal quotations and citations omitted). When considering a motion based on the sufficiency of the evidence, rather than newly discovered evidence, "[t]he trial judge may weigh the evidence and assess the credibility of the witnesses in considering the motion." United States v. Arnold, 416 F.3d 349, 360 (5th Cir. 2005) (internal citations omitted).

         C. Discussion

         1. Denial of Motions for Acquittal

         Mr. Reed first asserts the court erred in denying Mr. Reed's motions for acquittal pursuant to Fed.R.Crim.P. 29, made at the close of the Government's case and the conclusion of trial. Rule 29(a) provides that a court "must enter a judgment of acquittal of any offense for which the evidence is insufficient to sustain a conviction. The court may on its own consider whether the evidence is insufficient to sustain a conviction." The Fifth Circuit has stated that when considering a motion for acquittal, "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. Mix. 791 F.3d 603, 612 (5th Cir. 2015) (citing United States v. Valle, 538 F.3d 341, 344 (5th Cir.2008)) (emphasis in original, internal quotations omitted).

         The evidence offered at trial included, among other things: eye witness testimony by victims of each of the three robberies which Mr. Reed was charged with having conducted; surveillance videos, with accompanying audio, of the three robberies which Mr. Reed was alleged to have committed; clothing allegedly recovered from Mr. Reed's truck and from his places of abode allegedly matching the clothing observable in the videos of the robberies; a gun, recovered from Mr. Reed's truck, alleged to be a ballistic match to a casing recovered from the scene of one £ of the robberies; testimony by family, friends, a former supervisor, and a former romantic partner of Mr. Reed's; testimony by multiple law enforcement officials; bodycam footage; police logs and records related to the investigation of the robberies; and several pieces of time-stamped data recovered from a smart phone belonging to Mr. Reed. Viewing this evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, this Court finds a rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of each crime beyond a reasonable doubt, and therefore the evidence presented at trial was not insufficient to sustain a conviction as to each of the six counts with which Mr. Reed was charged. Therefore, the Court finds the interests of justice do not require a new trial on the basis of this claim.

         2. Verdict Contrary to the Weight of the Evidence

         Mr. Reed next asserts the jury's verdict is contrary to the weight of the evidence and not supported by substantial evidence. As noted above, when considering a motion for new trial based on the weight of the evidence, "[a] new trial is not required by the interest of justice unless there would be a miscarriage of justice or the weight of evidence preponderates against the verdict, " and "the decision to grant or deny a motion for new trial based on the weight of the evidence is within the sound discretion of the trial court. United States v. Chapman, No. 15-30538, 2017 WL 958312 (5th Cir. Mar. 10. 2017) (Internal Quotations and citations omitted). "The trial Judge may weigh the evidence and assess the credibility of the witnesses in considering the motion." United States v. Arnold, 416 F.3d 349, 360 (5th Cir. 2005) (internal citations omitted). Above, the Court provided a general catalogue of some of the evidence offered by the Government to prove the charges against Mr. Reed. Mr. Reed, for his part, offered primarily evidence supporting a defense of alibi for one of the nights in question, evidence meant to undermine the timestamps of the bodycam footage offered by the Government, and evidence of Mr. Reed's reputation and/or character. This Court does not find the weight of the evidence preponderates against the verdict such that the interests of justice mandate a new trial.

         3. Records of Internet ...


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