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United States v. Crowe

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Western Division

May 13, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
MOSES CROWE, Defendant.

          ORDER

          JEFFREY L. VIKEN CHIEF JUDGE.

         INTRODUCTION

         A grand jury indicted defendant Moses Crowe on charges of carjacking resulting in serious bodily injury, discharging a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence and possessing a firearm as a prohibited person. (Docket 2). The indictment also named two co-defendants, Saul Crowe and Ranson Long Pumpkin. Id. Co-defendant Saul Crowe pled guilty and the court accepted his guilty plea. (Dockets 74 & 80). Defendant now moves to sever his case for trial from Ranson Long Pumpkin pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 14.[1](Docket 97). The government resists the motion. (Docket 99). For the reasons given below, the court denies defendant's motion.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Legal Standards

         “When a defendant moves for a severance, a district court must first determine whether joinder is proper under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 8.” United States v. Darden, 70 F.3d 1507, 1526 (8th Cir. 1995). “The propriety of joinder is to be determined from the face of the indictment. . . . The factual allegations in the indictment must be accepted as true.” United States v. Massa, 740 F.2d 629, 644 (8th Cir. 1984) (internal citations omitted), overruled on other grounds by United States v. Inadi, 475 U.S. 387 (1986). “If joinder is proper, the court still has discretion to order a severance under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 14. These rules are to be ‘liberally construed in favor of joinder.' ” Id. (quoting United States v. Rimell, 21 F.3d 281, 288 (8th Cir. 1994)).

         “Under Rule 14, a district court may sever a defendant's trial from the trial of co-defendants if it appears that a defendant . . . is prejudiced by a joinder of offenses or of defendants in an indictment . . . or by such joinder for trial together.” Darden, 70 F.3d at 1527 (internal quotation marks and brackets omitted). “When joinder is proper under Rule 8, the defendant seeking a severance has the burden to demonstrate how the joint trial prejudiced his or her right to a fair trial.” Id. (citations omitted). “To show real prejudice, the defendant must establish that ‘(a) his defense is irreconcilable with that of his co-defendant or (b) the jury will be unable to compartmentalize the evidence as it relates to the separate defendants.' ” United States v. Davis, 534 F.3d 903, 916-17 (8th Cir. 2008) (quoting United States v. Mickelson, 378 F.3d 810, 818 (8th Cir. 2004)).

         “Disparity in the weight of the evidence between the codefendants is not a sufficient reason for severance.” United States v. Bordeaux, 84 F.3d 1544, 1547 (8th Cir. 1996) (citations omitted). “[T]he mere fact that one defendant tries to shift blame to another defendant does not mandate separate trials.” United States v. Shivers, 66 F.3d 938, 940 (8th Cir. 1995) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). “[T]he existence of antagonistic defenses does not require severance unless the defenses are actually irreconcilable. . . . Put simply, mere hostility between defendants or one defendant's attempt ‘to save himself at the expense of another' codefendant is not a sufficient ground to require severance.” Id. (quoting United States v. Boyd, 610 F.2d 521, 526 (8th Cir. 1979)).

         II. Analysis

         A. Joinder

         The court first finds it is proper to join defendant's and Mr. Long Pumpkin's cases for trial under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 8. That rule states:

The indictment or information may charge 2 or more defendants 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. The defendants may be charged in one or more counts together or separately.

Fed. R. Crim. P. 8(b). The indictment here alleges that both defendant and Mr. Long Pumpkin participated in the same carjacking in Rapid City on October 13, 2017. (Docket 2 at p. 1-2). They also both discharged a firearm during the carjacking, according to the affidavit. Id. at p. 2. The indictment does separately allege defendant possessed a firearm as a felon on October 25, but he does not assert that charge should be severed from the carjacking and firearm discharge offenses, nor does he argue this additional firearm charge constitutes improper joinder of his case with Mr. Long Pumpkin's. Id. at p. 3. Defendant and Mr. Long Pumpkin are properly joined in ...


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