Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sufficient Evidence Supported Witness Tampering Charge

U.S. Sparks, 2015 WL 3916626 (6/26/15) (Kan.) (Published) - The 10th holds the evidence was sufficient to convict Mr. Sparks of witness tampering in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(b)(1) where Mr. Sparks' daughter faced federal charges of distributing oxymorphone resulting in death; 3 weeks before trial Mr. Sparks brought his granddaughter, a potential witness at trial, to jail to visit her mother, Mr. Sparks' daughter; after the visit Mr. Sparks took his granddaughter to dinner; at dinner she said an investigator had talked to her; he told her: "you should only lie about important stuff." The government did not have to show Mr. Sparks did anything else, such as a threat or emotional appeal or repeated urging. A directive to lie is sufficient. That one statement made in the particular context of this case was enough, based on the 10th's interpretation of the word "persuade." A rational juror could conclude Mr. Sparks didn't just tell her to lie; he leveraged his familial relationship with his granddaughter and her relationship with her mom to induce false testimony. The district court did not err in failing to instruct the jury on the § 1512(e) defense that the sole intention was to encourage, induce or cause the other person to testify truthfully. The 10th doesn't feel that the evidence, even in the light most favorable to Mr. Sparks, supported that his sole intention was to encourage truthful testimony. He testified that at the dinner he only said "it's going to be all right" and told her her mom did not intend to harm the deceased. None of the statements could be interpreted as an attempt to encourage truthful testimony. At best, they were just words of "solace."