The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals published its opinion in United States v. Brooks on Thursday, August 29, 2013.
A jury convicted Anthony Brooks was convicted of armed bank robbery. He appealed his conviction, arguing that: (1) the evidence at trial was insufficient, as a matter of law, (2) the district court erred by admitting DNA evidence linking him to the crime scene; (3) the district court’s refusal to strike the testimony of the government’s expert witness constituted an abuse of discretion; (4) the district court abused its discretion by allowing the government to introduce evidence that Mr. Brooks was in possession of large amounts of cash several months following the robbery; and (5) the district court abused its discretion by denying Mr. Brooks’s motion for a new trial based on alleged juror misconduct.
The court found that the district court properly determined that the government established a sufficient foundation establishing a chain of custody for the DNA evidence. Finding no abuse of discretion, the court held the district court properly admitted the DNA evidence. The court also found that the district court did not abuse its discretion in allowing the testimony of the government’s expert witness. There was limited, if any, evidence that Mr. Brooks was prejudiced by the alleged discrepancy between the expert’s testimony and her report. The Tenth Circuit further held the district court did not err in admitting evidence that Mr. Brooks was in possession of large amounts of cash several months following the robbery. The possession of a large sum of cash at about the time of an offense may be considered as part of the circumstantial evidence where warranted by the particular facts involved. its probative value was not significantly diminished by the timing of the observations of his possession of the cash.
The court then turned to Mr. Brooks’ contention that insufficient evidence was produced at trial to support his conviction for armed bank robbery. Taking the evidence—both direct and circumstantial, together with the reasonable inferences to be drawn therefrom—in the light most favorable to the government, the Tenth Circuit concluded a reasonable jury could find Mr. Brooks guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. There was ample evidence in the record from which a reasonable jury could have found, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Mr. Brooks committed the bank robbery charged in the indictment.
Mr. Brooks’ final argument was that the district court erred in denying him a new trial based on alleged juror misconduct. Mr. Brooks argued that Mr. Clark, the jury foreperson, lied by omission in failing to inform the court and the parties during voir dire that he was under investigation by the same federal agency that was prosecuting Mr. Brooks. Under McDonough Power Equipment, Inc. v. Greenwood, 464 U.S. 548 (1984), a litigant is entitled to a new trial in the face of allegations that a juror’s voir dire responses are untruthful when a party demonstrates that a juror failed to answer honestly a material question on voir dire, and then further shows that a correct response would have provided a valid basis for a challenge for cause. The district court found that while the second prong of the McDonough test may have been met, it found that the juror’s responses to be truthful and denied Mr. Brooks’ motion for a new trial. The Tenth Circuit found no clear error in the district court’s determination.