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United States v. Jackson

July 8, 2010

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, APPELLEE,
v.
DOMINIC R. JACKSON, APPELLANT.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gruender, Circuit Judge.

Submitted: April 13, 2010

Before BYE, BEAM and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges.

A jury found Dominic Jackson guilty of possession of crack cocaine and marijuana with the intent to distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), conspiracy to possess crack cocaine, powder cocaine, and marijuana with the intent to distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 846, and possession of a firearm in furtherance of these drug crimes, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924. The district court*fn1 sentenced Jackson to 300 months' imprisonment. Jackson appeals, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence. For the following reasons, we affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

During the last week of October 2005, a confidential police informant purchased crack cocaine from the occupants of a one-bedroom house in Little Rock, Arkansas. Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ("ATF") determined that the house was leased to Elias Rhodes and Peter Robinson. After gathering more information, the ATF agents obtained a search warrant for the house.

At 7:30 a.m. on November 3, 2005, ATF agents arrived at the house to conduct surveillance before executing the search warrant. They noticed a red Chevrolet Caprice parked in the backyard of the house. The agents entered the house at 9:00 a.m. and found Jackson sleeping on a couch in the living room and Rhodes in the bathroom. The agents found a bag of marijuana underneath a cushion of the couch where Jackson had been sleeping and two loaded firearms hidden in a second, nearby couch. On an entertainment center, the agents discovered bags of crack cocaine, powder cocaine, and marijuana, two digital scales, a box of plastic sandwich bags, keys, and a yellow aerosol can. The aerosol can had a false bottom, which the agents unscrewed to reveal more bags of crack cocaine. The agents also found a large brick of marijuana in the corner of the living room. In the bedroom, the agents found another brick of marijuana, twenty-nine bags of marijuana, three bags of powder cocaine, two boxes holding more than $1,000 in cash, and an Arkansas Department of Health appointment reminder slip addressed to Jackson. All of the drugs that the agents recovered from the house, except the large bricks of marijuana, were packaged in fold-top plastic sandwich bags, which were knotted at the end.

During the search, an ATF special agent read Jackson his Miranda*fn2 rights, and Jackson agreed to speak with the agent. Jackson claimed that he did not live at the house, but he admitted that he had been coming to the house every day for the last three weeks to smoke marijuana. Jackson told the agent that the red Chevrolet Caprice parked in the backyard was his and that there was marijuana in it. The agents matched a set of keys found on the entertainment center to Jackson's car, which they then searched. In the front seat of Jackson's car, the agents found two bags of marijuana. Under the passenger seat, they discovered a yellow aerosol can, similar to the one found on the entertainment center in the house. Like the can in the house, this can had a false bottom, which an agent unscrewed to reveal four bags of marijuana and two bags containing multiple rocks of crack cocaine. Like the drugs found in the house, the drugs in Jackson's car were packaged in fold-top plastic sandwich bags that were knotted at the end. In total, the agents seized seventy-one grams of crack cocaine, 227 grams of powder cocaine, and 4.234 kilograms of marijuana from the house and Jackson's car.

A federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Jackson with (1) possession of fifty grams or more of cocaine base with the intent to distribute; (2) conspiracy to possess fifty grams or more of cocaine base with the intent to distribute; (3) conspiracy to possess 200 grams of powder cocaine with the intent to distribute; (4) possession of less than five kilograms of marijuana with the intent to distribute; (5) conspiracy to possess less than five kilograms of marijuana with the intent to distribute, and (6) possession of a firearm in furtherance of the drug crimes. The case proceeded to trial before a jury.

At the trial, Robinson testified that he did not live at the house but that he had co-signed the lease so that Rhodes would have a place to live. Robinson acknowledged that he knew Rhodes and Jackson and had been to the house many times. According to Robinson, Jackson began living at the house three or four weeks before the agents executed the search warrant. Robinson saw "a lot of traffic" going to the house, and he testified that people were visiting the house to buy drugs from Rhodes and Jackson. In fact, Robinson brought a friend to the house to buy marijuana. During his frequent visits to the house, Robinson said he had observed bags of marijuana and crack cocaine, digital scales, and one of the firearms found during the search.

ATF Special Agent David Oliver also testified at trial. Agent Oliver provided details about the confidential informant buy, the execution of the search warrant, and the seizure of the drugs and firearms. In particular, Agent Oliver stated that the crack cocaine and marijuana found in Jackson's car were packaged in the same manner as the drugs inside the house and that the drugs in Jackson's car constituted distributable amounts. Agent Oliver testified that bags of marijuana the size of those found in the yellow aerosol can in Jackson's car were often sold for $10 to $25 each and that individual rocks of crack cocaine the size of those in the can were commonly sold for $20 to $40.

Jackson moved for judgment of acquittal at the close of the Government's evidence, and the district court reserved ruling on the motion. The district court submitted the case to the jury, and the jury found Jackson guilty on all six counts. Jackson renewed his motion for judgment of acquittal. The district court denied the motion and sentenced Jackson to a total term of 300 months' imprisonment.

II. DISCUSSION

Jackson argues that the district court erred by denying his motion for judgment of acquittal because the evidence was insufficient for the jury to find that he possessed the drugs, conspired to possess the drugs, or possessed the firearms in furtherance of these crimes. We review de novo the district court's denial of a motion for judgment of acquittal. United States v. Coleman, 584 F.3d 1121, 1125 (8th Cir. 2009), cert. denied, 559 U.S. ---, 130 S.Ct. 1752 (2010). "In conducting this review, we consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict and draw all reasonable inferences in the Government's favor." Id. "The jury is responsible for assessing the credibility of witnesses and resolving conflicts in testimony, and its conclusions on these issues are 'virtually unreviewable on appeal.'" United States v. Thompson, 560 F.3d 745, 748-49 (8th Cir.) (quoting United States v. Morris, 327 ...


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