Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Life Sentence for Drug Defendant Affirmed; Speedy Trial Act, Other Arguments Rejected

U.S. v. Williams, 2009 WL 2462351 (8/13/09) (Published) - The d. ct. did not abuse its discretion when, upon remand from the 10th due to a Speedy Trial Act violation, it dismissed the indictment without prejudice, rather than with prejudice. The seriousness of the offense---possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute that carried a life sentence in light of the defendant's priors---and the lack of: prejudice to the defendant [the 5 years to challenge his priors had already passed before the delay]; evidence of government intentional delay or pattern of neglect; and the defendant's assertions of his speedy trial rights until after the time limit had passed, justified a without-prejudice dismissal. The failure to hold an evidentiary hearing, if error, was harmless because the d. ct. would have dismissed without prejudice even if it held a hearing.

The defendant could not demand the production and questioning of a CI on the grounds that the CI's lies resulted in the search warrant when he had not made the requisite substantial preliminary showing that the officer had intentionally or recklessly lied on the warrant affidavit. The defendant's sworn assertion that he had never sold cocaine to the CI and the affiant's prior lying did not cut the mustard. The defendant's assertion did not undermine the officer's, as opposed to the CI's, credibility. The defendant had to show the officer knew the CI was lying. And the officer's prior lying did not pertain directly to this case and was not "sufficiently pronounced or ubiquitous." [sufficiently ubiquitous?]. Despite the defendant's contradicting testimony, the officer's claims that the defendant's confession was voluntary supported the d. ct.'s finding to the same effect. There was no Brady problem with the court's refusal to order turning over the Internal Affairs file of the officer for in camera review. The defendant did not make a "plausible showing" of material evidence in the file and other witnesses established the defendant's guilt. Any error in restricting cross of the officer regarding his lying in another case was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, in light of the other evidence. The life sentence was not cruel and unusual because the 10th has upheld a life sentence for a 1-time cocaine offender.