Appeals from the United States No. 09-2036 District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Murphy, Circuit Judge
Submitted: January 15, 2010
Before MURPHY and BYE, Circuit Judges, and GOLDBERG,*fn1 Judge.
Appellants Tareke Lewis and Anthony Randle were convicted by a jury of aiding and abetting each other in the possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute and conspiracy to possess crack cocaine with intent to distribute. 18 U.S.C. § 2; 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 846. The district court*fn2 granted their motions for acquittal on the conspiracy charge. They appeal from their remaining convictions and argue that the evidence was insufficient, that the court erred by rejecting their Batson challenge, and that it abused its discretion by not giving their proposed jury instruction. Lewis also challenges the reasonableness of his sentence. We affirm.
On August 3, 2005, police executed a search warrant at a house in North Little Rock, Arkansas. When they arrived, appellant Lewis was on the front porch. Despite their commands to get on the ground, Lewis fled in a vehicle and was detained two blocks away.
Officers found a pair of digital scales in the car and $480 on Lewis' person. Lewis identified the house as his residence and the car as his own, although it was subsequently learned that the car was registered to Randle. In the northwest bedroom of the house, officers found firearms, ammunition, a large quantity of crack cocaine and cocaine, marijuana, and a set of scales similar to those found in Randle's car at the time it was being driven by Lewis. Lewis' identification card was found in the northwest bedroom of the house, and recent mail addressed to Randle was discovered in another bedroom along with a plate with granular substance on it, a razor, a gun, and marijuana. Randle listed the house's address on his drivers license.
During voir dire, DG, an African American woman in the jury pool stated that she had "heard the name" of a defense witness and that she believed he worked for the Department of Finance and Administration. She also stated that she had some family members involved in drug activity, but that she could be an impartial juror. EH, a second African American panelist, said that she personally knew another defense witness "from the neighborhood."
Appellants raised a Batson challenge, arguing that the prosecutor struck DG and EH because of their race while they were the only remaining African Americans who could have been impaneled. The prosecutor pointed to another African American in attendance, but appellants argued that this person was too far down the list to be called even if both sides were to use every peremptory strike. The prosecutor stated that she struck DG and EH because of their familiarity with the defense witnesses and because of DG's family involvement with drugs. The district court accepted the government's reasons for the strikes and found no Batson violation. After the jury returned a guilty verdict on the charges of aiding and abetting and conspiracy, the district court entered a judgment of acquittal on the conspiracy charge.
On appeal, appellants claim that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the jury's determination on the aiding and abetting charge, that they were denied equal protection by the government's exercising peremptory strikes against the two African American jury prospects, and that the district court abused its discretion in rejecting their proposed jury instruction. Lewis also challenges his sentence.
We review a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence de novo, considering the facts and resolving evidentiary conflicts in the light most favorable to the verdict. United States v. Selwyn, 398 F.3d 1064, 1065 (8th Cir. 2005). A conviction may be overturned only where "no reasonable jury could have found [appellants] guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." United States v. Bell, 477 F.3d 607, 613 (8th Cir. 2007).
To establish that the appellants aided and abetted each other in the possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute, the government had to prove that each one associated himself with the unlawful venture, participated in it as something he wished to bring about, and sought by his actions to make it succeed. United States v. Santana, 524 F.3d 851, 853 (8th Cir. 2008).
Evidence linking Lewis and Randle to each other and to the drug trafficking included the car, which Lewis had access to and claimed to possess although it was registered to Randle; $480 on Lewis' person while he was driving the car; similar digital scales in the car and house; and the proximity in the house of drugs, drug paraphernalia, firearms, ammunition, and identifying documents (mail to Randle and Lewis' identification card). Lewis identified the house as his residence. While Randle denied living there, the address was on his license and there was recent unopened mail to him in the house. There was also evidence that Lewis fled the scene despite a ...