Thursday, November 15, 2007

Court Upholds Convictions, Sentences In Large Drug Conspiracy Case

US v. Foster: Foster, Moses, and Taylor were all involved in a massive conspiracy to sell drugs in West Baltimore (the statement of facts makes it sound exactly like something out of Homicide: Life on the Street or The Wire). The conspiracy lasted for three years and included multiple murders and a kidnapping. In the end, all three defendants were convicted at trial of conspiracy to distribute more than 50 grams of crack. Foster was also convicted of witness tampering, a 924(c) violation, and carjacking; Moses of three counts of murder in relation to a drug trafficking crime and one 924(c) violation; and Taylor of one count of murder and one count of witness tampering. All three were sentenced to life in prison on the conspiracy count, with concurrent sentences imposed for the other offenses, including life on the murder charges (the jury after the capital sentencing phase recommended life rather than death).

On appeal, the defendants raise many issues that were quickly rejected by the Fourth Circuit. First, the court rejected the argument that the Government, through a statement during closing argument, constructively amended the indictment to widen the scope of the charged conspiracy. Second, the court rejected a claim by Taylor and Moses that the district court's response to a jury question during deliberations regarding who they could have aided and abetted with in relation to one of the murders. Third, the court rejected sufficiency of the evidence arguments raised by all three defendants. Finally, the court rejected the argument that the district court erred by only having the jury determine the amount of drugs attributable to the conspiracy as a whole, rather than to each defendant specifically.

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