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United States v. Tillman

United States District Court, Eighth Circuit

August 26, 2013

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
APRIL TILLMAN, Defendant.

ORDER

LINDA R. READE, Chief District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

The matter before the court is Defendant April Tillman's "Motion for New Trial" ("Motion") (docket no. 482).

II. RELEVANT PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On August 22, 2012, the Grand Jury returned a twelve-count Indictment (docket no. 15) charging Defendant and thirteen other individuals[1] with a number of crimes.

Count 1 of the Indictment charged Defendant with conspiracy to distribute one kilogram or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of heroin, a Schedule I controlled substance, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A) and 846. On July 15, 2013, the government relied on a previous conviction for a felony drug offense and filed a Notice of Intent to Seek Enhanced Penalties (docket no. 449) pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 851. Defendant was tried on Count 1 of the Indictment on July 22, 2013 and subsequently convicted on July 24, 2013;. See Jury Verdict (docket no. 470).

On August 7, 2013, Defendant filed the Motion, which requests that the court grant a new trial on the grounds that the verdict is against the weight of the evidence and that the court failed to give a buyer/seller jury instruction. On August 12, 2013, the government filed a Resistance (docket no. 483). The matter is fully submitted and ready for decision.

III. RELEVANT FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The trial evidence established that the government began investigating heroin distribution in the Waterloo area in 2010. After a series of controlled buys, the government executed a search warrant in February of 2011, and the government arrested several top-level dealers. Following those arrests, the government continued its investigation and made another series of arrests in late 2011. After the arrests in late 2011, the government continued its investigation, and it began investigating Defendant.

Pursuant to this investigation, the government discovered that Defendant regularly used heroin, and, to support her heroin habit, Defendant began distributing heroin. The government presented several witnesses who testified to purchasing heroin directly from Defendant.[2] Other government witnesses testified that Defendant delivered heroin that other co-conspirators ordered and accompanied Catherine Johnson to Chicago to obtain heroin. Witnesses further testified that Defendant delivered heroin for Catherine Johnson, ran the heroin traffic at Catherine Johnson's home and repackaged the heroin obtained from Chicago in Waterloo. Witnesses also testified that Defendant assisted "Jello" with selling heroin outside the apartment of Defendant's daughter. Finally, witnesses testified that Defendant drove "Jello" to drug transactions. In total, the government presented testimony from nineteen separate witnesses. Defendant cross-examined all of the government's witnesses.

The government also presented evidence of Defendant's phone records, which showed phone calls that Defendant made to other co-conspirators and corroborated the testimony of the government's witnesses.

IV. MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL

A. Legal Standard

Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33 provides that, "[u]pon the defendant's motion, the court may vacate any judgment and grant a new trial if the interest of justice so requires." Fed. R. Crim. P. 33(a). A district court is granted broad discretion in considering a motion for a new trial. United States v. Peters , 462 F.3d 953, 957 (8th Cir. 2006). A district court may "weigh the evidence, disbelieve witnesses, and grant a new trial even where there is substantial evidence to sustain the verdict." United States v. Campos , 306 F.3d 577, 579 (8th Cir. 2002) (quoting White v. Pence , 961 F.2d 776, 780 (8th Cir. 1992)) (internal quotation marks omitted). However, district courts "must exercise the Rule 33 authority sparingly and with caution.'" Id. (quoting United States v. Lincoln , 630 F.2d 1313, 1319 (8th Cir. 1980)). Further, the court "should grant a ...


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