Thursday, April 26, 2007
Court Upholds Conspiracy and Gun Convictions
US v. Wilson: Wilson and his codefendants were convicted of conspiracy to distribute drugs and firearm offenses. They raised various arguments regarding their trial, all of which the Fourth Circuit rejected. First, the court held that the district court properly allowed a detective to testify as an expert witness regarding "drug lingo" and "translate" numerous phone conversations among the conspirators. There were individual questions/answers which went beyond the scope of proper expert testimony that were not objected to by Wilson, the they did not rise to the level of plain error. Second, the court rejected several challenges to the jury instructions, applying plain error review (although the court concluded that there were no errors to begin with) - that the district court's telling the jury that it was the only one that "has ever decided or will decide" whether the Government proved its case was an impermissible Allen charge; that the instructions failed to require the jury to find the existence of an unlawful agreement before determining who was a part of it; and that the examples of conspiracies provided by the district court of too nearly tracked the facts of this case. Third, the court concluded that the Government's filings in support of the warrants used to wiretap the conspirators' phones were sufficient. Finally, the court rejected challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence.