United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Eastern Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION TO DENY MOTION FOR
SEVERANCE OF DEFENDANTS
Williams, Chief United States Magistrate Judge
matter comes before me pursuant to Alvin Harrison's
(“defendant”) Motion for Severance of Defendants.
(Doc. 31). Defendant “alleges prejudice to him in a
joint trial because the Government is expected to
‘introduce evidence of each defendant's statements
in jail phone calls and visits.'” (Doc. 33, at 1).
The Government filed a resistance that was untimely by one
day. (Doc. 36). Nevertheless, I will, in my discretion,
consider the Government's resistance.
Honorable Leonard T. Strand, Chief United States District
Court Judge, referred this motion to me for a report and
recommendation. For the reasons that follow, I respectfully
recommend that the Court deny defendant's Motion for
Severance of Defendants.
September 26, 2017, the grand jury returned a three-count
indictment against defendants Alvin Harrison and DeCarlos
Matlock. (Doc. 3). Count One charges defendant with Sex
Trafficking of Children by Force, Fraud, or Coercion between
June 1, 2016, and January 11, 2017. Count Two charges
defendant Matlock with the same crime, between June 1, 2016,
and December 6, 2016. Count Three charges both defendants
with Conspiracy to Commit Sex Trafficking of Children by
Force, Fraud, or Coercion between June 1, 2016, and January
motion, defendant alleges he will be prejudiced because he
expects “the Government will introduce evidence of each
defendant's statements.” (Doc. 31, at 1). Defendant
does not identify the statements he references. The
Government states in its resistance that “[a]t present,
the statements the government intends to introduce as
evidence against the defendants are self-inculpatory in
nature, in other words, statements made by Mr. Matlock
incriminate Mr. Matlock and do not mention or directly
incriminate Mr. Harrison on their face. Likewise, statements
made by Mr. Harrison incriminate Mr. Harrison, and do not
mention or directly inculpate Mr. Matlock on their
face.” (Doc. 36-1, at 4).
proper to charge two or more defendants together “if
they are alleged to have participated in the same act or
transaction or in the same series of acts or transactions
constituting an offense or offenses.” Fed. R. Crim. P.
8(b). This case meets that standard, and defendant does not
contend otherwise, so there is no issue of misjoinder in
violation of Rule 8. Defendant argues, instead, that the
joinder is prejudicial under Federal Rule of Criminal
Procedure 14(a), which states in pertinent part, “If
the joinder of . . . defendants in an indictment . . .
appears to prejudice a defendant . . . the court may . . .
sever the defendants' trials . . ..”
is a preference in the federal system for joint trials of
defendants who are indicted together.” Zafiro v.
United States, 506 U.S. 534, 537 (1993). Joint trials
“promote efficiency” and “play a vital role
in the criminal justice system.” Id. (quoting
Richardson v. Marsh, 481 U.S. 200, 209 (1987)). The
preference for a joint trial is “especially compelling
when the defendants are charged as co-conspirators” as
they are in this case. United States v. Basile, 109
F.3d 1304 (8th Cir. 1997). “A defendant seeking
severance has the heavy burden of demonstrating that the
joint trial will impermissibly infringe on his right to a
fair trial.” United States v. Baker, 98 F.3d
330, 340 (8th Cir. 1996).
relying on Bruton v. United States, 391 U.S. 123
(1968), argues “severance is necessary where the
Government intends to introduce evidence of statements by one
co-defendant inculpating another co-defendant.” (Doc.
33, at 2). Defendant does not specify any particular
statement made by co-defendant Matlock that would inculpate
defendant. The Government provides it does not intend to
introduce any such statements. (Doc. 36-1, at 4).
Bruton is inapplicable “where one
defendant's confession does not incriminate a codefendant
on its face, but becomes incriminating ‘only when
linked with evidence later at trial.'” United
States v. Gayekpar, 678 F.3d 629, 637 (8th Cir. 2012)
(quoting Richardson, 481 U.S. at 208). When a
defendant's pretrial statement “does not refer
directly to the codefendant himself, and becomes
incriminating only in combination with other evidence, the
Constitution permits the normal presumption that a jury will
follow an instruction to disregard the [pretrial statement]
when considering a verdict for the codefendant.”
Gayekpar, 678 F.3d at 637.
reference to a specific facially inculpatory pretrial
statement made by co-defendant Matlock, I find defendant has
failed to carry his heavy burden of demonstrating that a
joint trial would violate his constitutional rights under
reasons set forth above, I respectfully recommend the Court
deny defendant's Motion for ...