United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana
RULING AND ORDER
W. DEGRAVELLES JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
matter comes before the Court on the Motion for New Trial in
the Interest of Justice, Pursuant to Rule 33, Federal Rules
of Criminal Procedure (Doc. 245) filed by Defendant Daniel
Davis. The Government opposes the motion. (Doc. 265). On
December 10, 2018, and March 8, 2019, the Court held
evidentiary hearings on the motion. The parties submitted
briefs in support of their respective positions following the
December 10, 2018 hearing. (Docs. 264, 265, 273 & 274).
After careful consideration of the parties' arguments,
the facts in the record, and the applicable law, and for the
following reasons, the defendant's motion (Doc. 245) is
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
November 2016, Defendant Daniel Davis was indicted and
charged with two counts of deprivation of rights under color
of law and four counts of obstruction of justice for
allegedly assaulting an inmate twice at Louisiana State
Penitentiary (“LSP”) in Angola, Louisiana, and
leading a conspiracy to cover up the assault. (Doc. 1). Davis
was a supervisory correctional officer at the rank of Major
at the time of the assault. In January 2018, Davis was
convicted of four counts of obstruction of justice and
acquitted of one count of deprivation of rights under color
of law for the first alleged assault. The jury was unable to
reach a verdict on the remaining deprivation-of- rights
count, and the Court declared a mistrial. The remaining count
was ultimately set for retiral in November 2018.
November 8, 2018, following a four-day jury trial, Davis was
convicted of the one remaining count of deprivation of rights
under color of law for the second alleged assault in an
exterior breezeway. After the jury delivered its verdict, the
Court held an informal discussion with jurors thanking them
for their service. During this discussion, several members of
the jury, including the foreperson, revealed that they were
aware that Davis was involved in a prior trial and convicted
of certain charges related to the offense he was ultimately
convicted of in the instant trial. It is unknown how the
information was revealed, as neither the Court nor the
parties discussed it during the trial. The next day, the
Court held a telephonic status conference with counsel for
Davis and the Government informing them of this discussion
and soliciting feedback on the next steps to be taken.
Subsequently, the parties and the Court agreed to hold a
hearing during which each juror was individually questioned
about his or her knowledge of Davis' prior trial and the
discussion held with the Court following their verdict on
November 8, 2018.
November 2018 Trial
November 5 to November 8, 2018, Davis stood trial on the
charge in Count Two of the Indictment. Davis, along with
codefendants John Sanders and James Savoy--both of whom
previously pled guilty and agreed to cooperate with the
Government--was accused of assaulting an inmate “on the
exterior breezeway connecting the Shark units” at LSP
while the inmate was restrained by handcuffs and shackles on
January 4, 2014. (Doc. 1 at 2-3). At the trial, four
correctional officers--Scotty Kennedy, John Sanders, Enrico
George, and Patricia Seymore-- offered eyewitness accounts of
the incident. Their testimony revealed that Davis
“yanked” the inmate's shackles, causing him
to fall face-first onto the ground in the
breezeway. According to testimony, Davis then
proceeded to punch and stomp on the inmate and was joined by
Sanders, a subordinate officer who interpreted Davis'
action in yanking the shackles as a “green light”
to assault the inmate. (Doc. 251 at 12-13). Savoy and Willy
Thomas also participated in the assault. (Id. at
13). Throughout the alleged assault, the inmate was
restrained and was not resisting. (Id. at 15). The
assault left the inmate with serious injuries, including
broken ribs, a dislocated shoulder, and a punctured lung.
Court also heard testimony from Kennedy, Sanders, and George
that Davis devised a cover story and instructed the three to
report that the inmate had provoked the assault, that Davis
merely assisted Kennedy in gaining control of the inmate, and
that Sanders and Savoy were not present for or involved in
the assault. (See, e.g., Doc. 251 at 21-31). Davis
did not testify at the November 2018 trial or provide his own
theory of the case, but his portrayal of events was
introduced through witnesses testimony and his attorneys'
opening and closing statements.
December 10, 2018, 11 of the 12 deliberating jurors
testified, in addition to one juror who was excused before
the end of trial for personal reasons. The final deliberating
juror appeared for questioning on March 8, 2019. The Court
will summarize each juror's testimony, listing them in
the order in which they testified on December 10 and March 8:
1 : Juror 1 recalled that, after the trial concluded
and the Court issued its final instructions, while the jurors
were eating lunch, the foreperson “casually”
mentioned that Davis had a prior trial and conviction and
that this was “the second go-round.” (Doc. 260 at
4-5). He was unsure of what the previous conviction was for,
but knew that a mistrial had been declared and that the
current trial was a result of the mistrial. (Id. at
6). While there were other conversations between jurors
occurring at this time, “several others” heard
the foreperson's comment. (Id. at 5- 6).
However, the issue was not raised again during the jury's
deliberations. (Id. at 7-8).
2: During lunch on the last day of trial after the
jury was excused, Juror 2 heard the foreperson mention that
the defendant was involved in a prior trial and that the
current trial was “another part” of it.
(Id. at 11). She did not remember hearing anything
specific about the previous trial, and this was the only time
it was discussed. (Id. at 9-11).
3: Juror 3 testified that “at least two
people” mentioned something about a prior trial, but
the only one he could identify was the foreperson.
(Id. at 12). The foreperson stated that the
defendant “was convicted along with the other
guys” and that the current trial was for “a count
that didn't go through.” (Id. at 13).
Juror 3 then stated to the others that they were “not
supposed to talk about anything unless it was brought up in
court, ” to which the foreperson responded that the
issue of a prior trial was discussed in the courtroom during
trial. (Id. at 13-14).
4: Did not hear anything about a prior trial until
after the jury reached its verdict. (Id. at 16).
5: Juror 5 first heard about a prior trial while
having lunch during the trial, when the foreperson commented
that the defendant had been tried previously. (Id. at
20-21). The foreperson did not provide any details concerning
the previous trial or whether it “had anything to do
with [this] case.” (Id. at 21). Juror 5
testified that the issue was mentioned only once.
(Id. at 22).
6: While “deliberating after the trial,
” the foreperson “mentioned that there was a
guilty verdict reached for falsifying paperwork and perhaps
something else, perhaps one other charge, in a separate trial
and this trial was being held because . . . no verdict was
reached on this specific charge.” (Id. at 24).
Juror 7 assumed that “probably everybody” heard
this comment, but noted that jurors were having
“multiple conversations” at the same time and was