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United States v. Harris-Thompson

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

May 2, 2014

United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee
v.
Lorenzo Harris-Thompson, Defendant - Appellant

Submitted December 19, 2013.

Page 591

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 592

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 593

Appeal from United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa - Cedar Rapids.

For United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee (12-3816): Teresa Baumann, U.S. Attorney's Office, Cedar Rapids, IA.

For Lorenzo Harris-Thompson, Defendant - Appellant (12-3816): Jay Elliott Denne, Munger & Reinschmidt, Sioux City, IA.

Lorenzo Harris-Thompson, Defendant - Appellant (12-3816), Pro se, Pine Knot, KY.

For United States of America, Plaintiff - Appellee (13-1021): Teresa Baumann, U.S. Attorney's Office, U.S. Attorney's Office.

For Lorenzo Harris-Thompson, Defendant - Appellant (13-1021): Jay Elliott Denne, Munger & Reinschmidt, Sioux City, IA.

Lorenzo Harris-Thompson, Defendant - Appellant (13-1021), Pro se, Pine Knot, KY.

Before RILEY, Chief Judge, WOLLMAN and LOKEN, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 594

LOKEN, Circuit Judge.

While he awaited sentencing after pleading guilty to being an unlawful drug user in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § § 922(g)(3) and 924(a)(2), Lorenzo Harris-Thompson arranged for his girlfriend to pay an undercover police officer to kill the police chief of Mount Vernon, Iowa, because he believed that officer would testify at the upcoming sentencing hearing. New charges were filed, and a jury convicted Harris-Thompson of attempted obstruction of justice, attempted murder of a witness, and use of a telephone in the commission of murder for hire, violations of 18 U.S.C. § § 1503, 1512(a)(1)(A), and 1958. The district court[1] imposed four consecutive sentences totaling 840 months in prison. Harris-Thompson appeals his three convictions in the murder-for-hire case; denial of a belated motion to withdraw his guilty plea in the user-in-possession case; and both sentences. We affirm.

I. Jury Bias Issues

Consistent with defense counsel's focus at oral argument, we begin with the most unusual issue the district court encountered in trying the murder-for-hire case -- whether Harris-Thompson was entitled to a mistrial or a new trial when the jurors reported that " words were exchanged" with members of " Mr. Harris-Thompson's family" as jurors left the courthouse after the first day of their deliberations. The district court, advised of this report the next morning, promptly stated to Harris-Thompson and both attorneys, on the record:

This obviously is a very, very serious matter and could result in criminal charges being filed against members of Mr. Harris-Thompson's family for attempting to influence the jury.

I have asked . . . a Deputy United States Marshal to interview the jurors

Page 595

this morning, find out who contacted them, which family members, what was said. And then it will be obviously up to someone else to decide whether criminal charges should be filed.
I have no idea what was said . . . no one else has asked [the jurors] what was said. . . . They do not wish to, at this point, talk to the Court about it.
So I just wanted to make you aware of that. We may have a mistrial situation. We may have ...

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