United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Cedar Rapids Division
R. READER JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.
matter before the court is Defendant Cordero Robert
Seals's “Renewed Motion for Judgment of
Acquittal” (“Motion”) (docket no. 57).
RELEVANT PROCEDURAL HISTORY
21, 2017, a grand jury returned a Superseding Indictment
(docket no. 26) against Defendant. Count 1 charged Defendant
with distribution of a controlled substance resulting in
serious bodily injury in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§
841 (a)(1) and (b)(1)(C). See Superseding Indictment
at 1. Count 2 charged Defendant with possession with intent
to distribute a controlled substance in violation of 21
U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(C). Id. at
2. On July 17, 2017, a jury trial commenced. See
July 17, 2017 Minute Entry (docket no. 45). On July 18, 2017,
Defendant moved for a judgment of acquittal. See
July 18, 2017 Minute Entry (docket no. 47) at 3. The court
reserved ruling on the motion as to the serious bodily injury
enhancement on Count 1. Id.
19, 2017, Defendant renewed his motion for judgment of
acquittal at the close of Defendant's case. See
July 19, 2017 Minute Entry (docket no. 49) at 2. The court
again reserved ruling as to the enhancement. Id. On
July 19, 2017, the jury returned a verdict finding Defendant
guilty of both counts charged in the Superseding Indictment.
See Jury Verdicts (docket no. 53). On July 28, 2017,
Defendant filed the Motion. On August 31, 2017, the
government filed a Resistance (docket no. 62). On September
5, 2017, Defendant filed a Reply (docket no. 63). The matter
is fully submitted and ready for decision.
RELEVANT TRIAL EVIDENCE
in the light most favorable to the government, the relevant
trial evidence is as follows.
November 4, 2016, J.V. contacted Defendant to purchase
heroin. J.V. picked up Defendant in a truck several blocks
from a convenience store in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and purchased
approximately $40 worth of heroin. Shortly thereafter, J.V.
and Defendant drove to the convenience store. At
approximately 3:52 p.m., J.V. entered the convenience store
bathroom. See Government Exhibits 1A-K (docket no.
49-2). While inside the bathroom, J.V. utilized the bottom of
a pop can as a spoon and injected the substance he had
purchased from Defendant. Testing of the can revealed heroin
and fentanyl residue. See Government Exhibit 4
(docket no. 49-4).
approximately 3:56 p.m., J.V. returned to the truck and began
to fill it with gas. See Government Exhibits 1A-K.
At 3:57 p.m., J.V. collapsed. Id. J.V. became
comatose, was breathing only four to six times a minute and
was cyanotic. See Trial Transcript (docket no. 59)
at 13. A convenience store employee called 911 and Emergency
Medical Services (“EMS”) subsequently arrived at
the scene. EMS administered a substance called Naloxone to
J.V. and he returned to a normal mental state within thirty
to sixty seconds. Id. at 13-14.
on this response to Naloxone, emergency physician Dr. Joshua
Pruitt testified that J.V. was unresponsive from an opiate
overdose. Id. at 13. Dr. Pruitt further concluded
that “[s]ave for the intervention of trained medical
personnel, [J.V.] would have continued in th[e] decreased
mental status with decreased respiratory effort”
leaving “a significant risk for . . . anoxic brain
injury and death.” Id. at 14. Forensic
Examiner Roman Karas later performed testing of J.V.'s
blood, which revealed unknown quantities of methamphetamine,
morphine, codeine, fentanyl and acetylfentanyl. Id.
MOTION FOR JUDGMENT OF ACQUITTAL
Rule of Criminal Procedure 29 provides that “the court
on the defendant's motion must enter a judgment of
acquittal of any offense for which the evidence is
insufficient to sustain a conviction.” Fed. R. Crim. P.
29(a). Such a motion is permitted after trial, in which case
the court may set aside the verdict and enter a judgment of
acquittal. See Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(c). It is well
settled that jury verdicts are not lightly overturned.
See, e.g., United States v. Peneaux, 432
F.3d 882, 890 (8th Cir. 2005); United States v.
Stroh, 176 F.3d 439, 440 (8th Cir. 1999). The court must
view the evidence in the light most favorable to the
government and give the government the benefit of all
reasonable inferences. See United States v. Peters,
462 F.3d 953, 957 (8th Cir. 2006). The court must uphold the
jury's verdict so long as a reasonable-minded jury could
have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Id. Moreover, the court “must uphold the
jury's verdict even where the evidence ‘rationally
supports two conflicting ...