October 24, 2014

Colorado Court of Appeals: Proof of Prior Convictions Not “Element” of Class 3 Felony for Motor Vehicle Theft

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Hopkins on Thursday, May 23, 2013.

Aggravated Motor Vehicle Theft—Prior Convictions—Element—Due Process—Class of Felony.

Defendant appealed the judgment of conviction entered on a jury verdict finding him guilty of aggravated motor vehicle theft in the first degree. The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment.

Based on proof that defendant had two prior convictions involving theft of a motor vehicle, the court ruled that the current charge was punishable as a class 3 felony and sentenced defendant to ten years in prison. Defendant contended that proof of his prior convictions is an element of the class 3 felony and that the trial court erred when it did not submit this element to the jury for its determination beyond a reasonable doubt. Alternatively, he argued that even if proof of prior convictions is not an element, due process required the court to submit the question to the jury.

CRS § 18-4-409(2)(a) describes the elements of motor vehicle theft in the first degree, which does not include proof of prior convictions. CRS § 18-4-409(3) addresses only the class of felony (it does not create a separate crime), and CRS § 409(3)(b) describes when aggravated motor vehicle theft in the first degree can be a class 3 felony. Therefore, the actus reus and mens rea are the same for the class 3 and class 4 felonies, and proof of two prior convictions related to motor vehicle theft is not an element of the class 3 felony. It follows that due process does not require that defendant’s prior conviction be proved to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.

Summary and full case available here.

Tenth Circuit: Defendant’s Conviction of Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Cocaine Affirmed

The Tenth Circuit published its opinion in United States v. Patterson on Friday, April 5, 2013.

The events that gave rise to Adrian Patterson’s indictment stem from a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigation into whether Bernard Redd was distributing cocaine in Wichita, Kansas. A substantial portion of the evidence presented against the co-conspirators was obtained through wiretaps of their telephone conversations, which was presented at trial. Patterson was convicted by jury trial of a number of drug charges, including conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine.

On appeal, Patterson raised a number of challenges to his conviction and sentence. He contended:

(1) The district court erred in denying his request for a pretrial hearing to determine his competency to stand trial.

A defendant’s right to a competency hearing is governed in part by 18 U.S.C. § 4241(a), which requires a district court to grant a motion for a hearing in limited circumstances. These include “if there is  reasonable cause to believe that the defendant may presently be suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incompetent to the extent that he is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to assist properly in his defense. Based on the district court’s observations of Patterson, the Tenth Circuit held the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying his request for a competency hearing.

(2) The evidence offered by the government was insufficient to support his conviction and to provide a basis for the admission of testimony under the coconspirator exception to the hearsay rule.

The Tenth Circuit found that the district court’s factual finding as to the existence of a conspiracy was not clearly erroneous. Further, in the light most favorable to the government, a rational juror could draw the conclusion from the evidence that Patterson was involved in a conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

(3) His Sixth Amendment rights under the Confrontation Clause were violated when hearsay testimony linking him to the conspiracy was introduced at trial.

Patterson argued that the admission of hearsay testimony violated principles established by the Supreme Court in Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004), and Bruton v. United States, 391 U.S. 123 (1968). The Court held that the admission of statements violated neither Crawford nor Bruton because both statements were made in furtherance of a conspiracy and were therefore nontestimonial.

(4) The district court improperly instructed the jury.

The district court made statements about its schedule. Patterson argued the statements exerted undue coercion on the jury. The Tenth Circuit held Patterson’s interpretation of the comments as coercive had no basis in the record or in the law. The district court did not plainly err in its interaction with the jury over scheduling matters.

(5) The district court’s finding at sentencing that he was responsible for the distribution of fifteen kilos of cocaine is clearly erroneous.

Patterson next challenged the district court’s factual finding at sentencing that he was responsible for distributing fifteen kilograms of cocaine. The Tenth Circuit found Patterson did not meet his burden of showing clear error. The testimony supported a finding that up to sixty kilograms of cocaine was actually or intended to be distributed during the conspiracy.

(6) The indictment was insufficiently specific as to the counts charged against him.  

The two principal criteria by which the sufficiency of an indictment is assessed are “first, whether the indictment contains the elements of the offense intended to be charged, and sufficiently apprises the defendant of what he must be prepared to meet, and, secondly, in case any other proceedings are taken against him for a similar offense[,] whether the record shows with accuracy to what extent he may plead a former acquittal or conviction.” United States v. Washington, 653 F.3d 1251, 1259 (10th Cir. 2011).

Based on this standard, the Tenth Circuit found no error.

(7) The district court erred in failing to exclude evidence obtained in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.

Patterson’s last claim is that the district court erred in not granting his motion to suppress evidence obtained from the government’s alleged illegal use of cell site location information. By failing to develop any argument on this claim in the Tenth Circuit, Patterson waived this claim.

AFFIRMED.

Tenth Circuit: Jury’s Award in Breach of Insurance Contract Case Affirmed

The Tenth Circuit published its opinion in Ryan Development Company v. Indiana Lumbermens Mutual Insurance Company on Wednesday, March 27, 2013.

This case arose from a fire that destroyed a Texas manufacturing facility in April 2009. The owner of the facility, Agriboard, manufactured building panels made of compressed straw. At the time of the fire, Agriboard was insured under a fire and related losses insurance policy issued by Indiana Lumbermens Mutual Insurance Company (“ILM”) with various coverages, including lost income. ILM paid $450,000. Agriboard sued ILM for breach of an insurance contract, and ILM paid $1.8 million. Agriboard continued to seek recovery under the policy, but ILM refused to pay the amount requested. Agriboard re-filed suit, seeking $2.4 million in unpaid coverage.

The jury awarded Agriboard $2,261,166 for breach of contract. ILM renewed its motion for judgment as a matter of law, or in the alternative, for a new trial, asserting four grounds for relief: (1) prejudicial remarks in Agriboard’s closing arguments; (2) confusing and inappropriate jury instructions; (3) inadmissible expert testimony; and (4) a verdict unsupported by the evidence. The trial court denied the motion. ILM appealed.

At issue on appeal was ILM’s motion for a new trial.

First, ILM argued it was entitled to a new trial because Agriboard’s accountants offered expert testimony after the trial court ruled in limine that such testimony was inadmissible. Because the district court admitted the accountants’ testimony under FRE 701, where a non-expert witness may offer opinions not based on scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge within the scope of Rule 702, the Tenth Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the accountants’ testimony.

Second, ILM challenged certain jury instructions, asserting they were (1) inappropriate because Agriboard never elicited testimony that the policy was ambiguous, and (2) designed to confuse the jury. The Tenth Circuit’s review of the record confirmed the district court’s finding that the instructions on how to interpret an insurance policy and what to do when the policy and endorsement conflict were suitable for the jury.

Third, ILM argued a new trial was warranted because Agriboard’s counsel made improper remarks during closing arguments. The decision to grant a new trial based upon counsel’s misconduct is left largely to the discretion of the district court. A new trial is appropriate only if the moving party shows that it was prejudiced by the attorney misconduct. Because the jury was instructed that closing arguments are not evidence, any remarks were brief and unlikely affected Agriboard’s substantial rights, particularly given that the jury was instructed to follow the law as the judge explained.

Finally, ILM argued the verdict was not supported by the evidence. When a new trial motion asserts that the jury verdict is not supported by the evidence, the verdict must stand unless it is clearly, decidedly, or overwhelmingly against the weight of the evidence. Absent an award that shocks the judicial conscience or raises an irresistible inference that passion, prejudice, corruption or other improper cause played a part in the jury’s damage award, an appeals court will not disturb the jury’s damage award. Ample evidence was introduced at trial for the jury to conclude that ILM breached its contract. Thus, the trial court did not abuse its discretion.

AFFIRMED.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Although Constitutional Confrontation Rights Violated, Error was Harmless Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Houser on Thursday, January 31, 2013.

Patronizing a Prostituted Child—Affirmative Defense—Reasonable Belief in Age Defense—Confrontation Rights—Cross-Examination—Plea Agreement—Jury Instruction—Lesser-Included Offense.

Defendant appealed the judgment of conviction entered on a jury verdict finding him guilty of patronizing a prostituted child. The judgment was affirmed and the case was remanded for correction of the mittimus.

A.J., age 16, was arrested in Denver and charged with prostitution, soliciting for the purpose of prostitution, and possession of a controlled substance. A.J. told police that the night before her arrest, she had gone to defendant’s home in Douglas County, where he paid her $240 to engage in sexual acts with him. Based on A.J.’s statements, defendant was charged in Douglas County with patronizing a prostituted child.

Defendant first contended that the trial court erred by precluding him from raising the defense that he reasonably believed A.J. was at least 18 years old. However, CRS § 18-7-407 prevents a defendant from offering a reasonable belief in age defense to a charge of patronizing a prostituted child. Therefore, the court did not err in this regard.

Defendant also contended that the trial court violated his confrontation rights by precluding cross-examination of A.J. on the details of her plea agreement, her continued prostitution, and the outstanding warrant. The jury heard only that A.J. had been arrested, agreed to plead guilty, and provided information to police. The disparity between the originally charged class 3 felony (drug possession) and the class 3 misdemeanor (prostitution) to which A.J. pleaded was likely to cause an average juror to infer that she had received significant benefit from testifying. Therefore, although the court committed constitutional error in limiting cross-examination on the plea agreement, the overwhelming evidence of defendant’s guilt rendered this error harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Further, the exclusion of evidence of the outstanding warrant against A.J. and of her continued prostitution was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt for the same reasons.

Defendant further argued that the trial court’s instruction defining “prostitution by a child” was erroneous. The definitional instruction substantially followed the statutory language, and it was not error that the instruction provided multiple ways by which an act could constitute “prostitution by a child.” Defendant’s e-mails were sufficient to support a jury finding to this effect. Therefore, the trial court’s definitional instruction did not constitute plain error.

Defendant also challenged the trial court’s failure to give his tendered jury instruction on the lesser-included offense of attempt. However, given the definition of “prostitution by a child,” the evidence would not have permitted the jury to acquit defendant of patronizing a prostituted child while convicting him of the lesser-included attempt offense. Therefore, the trial court properly rejected defendant’s attempt instruction.

Summary and full case available here.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Trial Court Erred in Requiring Jury to Determine Penalties but Error was Corrected in Trial Court and Therefore There Was No Harm

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Graham v. Zurich American Insurance Co. on Thursday, November 1, 2012.

Employment—Colorado Wage Claim Act—Penalties—Jury—Attorney Fees.

Zurich American Insurance Company appealed from the trial court’s final judgment in favor of Michael Graham. The judgment was affirmed and the case was remanded.

After being terminated from his job at Zurich, Graham brought an action to recover certain bonuses that, in his view, constituted unpaid wages under the Colorado Wage Claim Act. The jury found in Graham’s favor and awarded $28,326.98 in damages, but it failed to add certain penalties that are mandatory under the Wage Claim Act. After the court gave the jury additional instructions, the jury entered a verdict in favor of Graham that included penalties. The court entered judgment on the first verdict in the amount of $28,326.98, plus penalties and interest.

Zurich contended that the court erred in granting judgment for Graham. It is the jury’s responsibility to make the necessary factual findings as to whether the employee made a written demand for payment, whether the employer paid the employee within fourteen days, and whether the employer’s failure to pay was willful. After receiving the jury’s factual findings, the court is then responsible for determining the penalties as a matter of law. Here, the court erred in requiring further deliberations after it received the first verdict. The court should have recognized that the first verdict contained all the necessary factual findings, and it should have corrected the jury’s determination of penalties as a matter of law. Therefore, although the court erred in further instructing the jury to determine penalties, it corrected its error by entering judgment on the first verdict and determining penalties based on the jury’s factual findings. The judgment was affirmed and the case was remanded to the court to determine, in its discretion, whether Graham should be awarded the reasonable attorney fees he incurred in defending this appeal.

Summary and full case available here.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Defense Counsel’s Assistance at Trial Court Was Effective in Several Ways

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Aguilar on Thursday, October 25, 2012.

Crim.P. 11 and 35(c)—Second-Degree Murder—Felony Murder—Burglary—Ineffective Assistance of Counsel—Expert Witness—Jury Instruction—Double Jeopardy Rights—Providency Hearing—Sentencing.

Defendant, appearing pro se, appealed the district court’s order denying his Crim.P. 35(c) motion for post-conviction relief alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. The order was affirmed.

Defendant and his companions broke into the victim’s home, bound and gagged the victim, and covered him with a mattress. They then ransacked the victim’s home and carried items away. The victim was unable to free himself and consequently died. A jury found defendant guilty of first-degree burglary, second-degree burglary, theft, robbery, and conspiracy to commit robbery. The jury could not reach a verdict on a charge of felony murder and a mistrial was granted with respect to that charge. Before the scheduled retrial, defendant pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for dismissal of the felony murder charge.

Defendant contended that he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel because counsel failed to hire an expert to observe and rebut the prosecution’s use of consumptive DNA testing. Defense counsel’s decision to call or not call his own DNA expert was a matter of trial strategy. Defendant failed to allege facts establishing that counsel’s choice was outside the wide range of professionally competent assistance. Consequently, defendant was not entitled to a hearing on this claim.

Defendant also contended that counsel was ineffective for failing to tender a reckless manslaughter instruction at trial. Defendant’s theory of defense was that he did not cause the victim’s death. Therefore, reckless manslaughter was inconsistent with defendant’s theory of defense and defendant cannot prove that counsel’s performance was deficient in this regard.

Defendant also argued that his trial counsel was ineffective for not advising him of his double jeopardy rights. Specifically, defendant argued that because the jury had convicted him of first-degree burglary, a lesser-included offense of felony murder, he could not be retried for felony murder and, therefore, his counsel was ineffective in neglecting to advise him that he should not plead to another lesser included offense of felony murder. The jury convicted defendant of burglary and expressly hung on the charge of felony murder. The implied acquittal rule does not bar retrial of a greater offense when a jury deadlocks on that charge but convicts on a lesser-included offense. Therefore, a retrial for felony murder would not have violated defendant’s double jeopardy rights. Consequently, his claim that counsel was ineffective for allowing his guilty plea to avoid a second trial failed.

Defendant further contended that he received ineffective assistance of counsel during the Crim.P. 11 providency hearing. However, the plea agreement signed by defendant and the record of the plea hearing do not support defendant’s argument. Because defendant was advised orally or in writing of each of the asserted errors, he failed to establish that his plea was not voluntary, knowing, or intelligent, or that his defense counsel provided deficient performance.

Finally, because defendant’s convictions were not supported by identical evidence, his counsel was not ineffective in failing to secure concurrent sentences. The order was affirmed.

Summary and full case available here.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Jury Instruction Suggesting Methods of Deliberation Not Directive But Rather Facilitative of Open Communications

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Poe on Thursday, October 11, 2012.

Jury Instruction—Evidence—Possession of Drugs and Drug Paraphernalia.

Defendant Alexander Poe appealed the judgment of conviction entered on a jury verdict finding him guilty of possession of a schedule II controlled substance (methamphetamine), possession of marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia. The judgment was affirmed.

While Poe was out with a female friend, his parole officer and two other parole officers searched his apartment. They found drugs and drug paraphernalia. He returned during the search and was arrested.

On appeal, Poe contended that the trial court erred when it gave the jury an instruction with suggestions on how deliberations should be conducted. However, the court did not direct the jury to deliberate in a certain way. The court merely offered suggestions, which were given to facilitate the very same open and honest deliberation of which Poe now claims he was deprived. Therefore, the court did not abuse its discretion in offering suggestions to the jury to keep an open mind and reach a considered decision during final deliberations.

Poe also contended that the evidence presented to the jury was insufficient to convict him of the possession charges. The drugs and drug paraphernalia were found in Poe’s one-bedroom apartment, which he owned, and there was no evidence that any other person lived at the apartment or that Poe had a female houseguest as he claimed. Further, Poe’s parole conditions required him to request permission to have an overnight guest, and he had not made such a request. Although Poe had a female friend who claimed ownership of the illegal items, the evidence sufficiently supported the jury’s conclusion that the items found were under Poe’s dominion and control.

Summary and full case available here.

Colorado Supreme Court: Attorney Incompetence Exception to Invited Error Doctrine Not Applicable to Strategic Defense Moves, Only to Inadvertent Mistakes or Oversights

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Gross on Monday, October 1, 2012.

Invited Error Doctrine—Attorney Incompetence—Exception—Review of Defense—Tendered Instructions.

The Supreme Court held that the invited error doctrine precludes a defendant from appealing a jury instruction tendered by his or her own counsel. The attorney incompetence exception to the invited error doctrine, which was enunciated in People v. Stewart, 55 P.3d 107, 119 (Colo. 2002), does not apply to deliberate, strategic acts of defense counsel, but rather to inadvertent errors or oversights. The Court also found that, although the trial court should have instructed the jury on self-defense with respect to the crime of extreme indifference murder, the omission of this instruction did not amount to plain error in this case.

Summary and full case available here.

http://www.cobar.org/opinions/opinionlist.cfm?casedate=10/1/2012&courtid=2

Tenth Circuit: Court May Work to Clarify Ambiguous Initial Verdict at Trial Before Sentencing Occurs; Asking Jury to Deliberate Further Is Not Coercive

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals published its opinion in United States v. Shippley on Tuesday, August 14, 2012.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision. Petitioner served as the “Sergeant at Arms” for a chapter of the Mongols Motorcycle Club, and his job was to ensure members were armed and ready for confrontations with rival gangs. “After a massive nationwide investigation and ‘take down’ of the club in 2008, [Petitioner] found himself facing a federal drug conspiracy charge. His chief accuser . . . a former club president, longtime felon, and sometimes federal informant, testified at trial that [Petitioner] was responsible for supplying considerable amounts of high quality cocaine for resale to retail customers.”

At the end of trial, the jury returned a general verdict finding [Petitioner] guilty of the conspiracy charge. “But in response to the court’s special interrogatories, the jury indicated that [Petitioner] had not conspired to distribute any of the drugs listed in the indictment. In effect, the jury both convicted and acquitted [Petitioner] of the charged conspiracy.” The district court ordered the jury to deliberate further, and those further deliberations quickly yielded an unambiguous guilty verdict.

Petitioner argues the district court erred and should have entered a verdict of acquittal and that the district court coerced the jury, violating his Fifth Amendment right to due process and his Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial. The Court disagreed. A district court may work to clarify an ambiguous initial verdict at trial, long before any sentencing occurs, which is what the court did. The district court did not later interpret this ambiguity against Petitioner at sentencing. Additionally, merely asking a jury to deliberate further is not inherently coercive after the jury has reached a definitive if inconsistent verdict.

http://www.ca10.uscourts.gov/opinions/11/11-1076.pdf

Tenth Circuit: Error to Instruct Jury that Former Employer Bore Heightened Burden of Proof in Establishing Entitlement to FLSA Exemption

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals published its opinion in Lederman v. Frontier Fire Protection, Inc. on Wednesday, July 11, 2012.

The Tenth Circuit reversed and remanded the district court’s decision. Respondent sued his former employer, Petitioner, to recover overtime pay he alleged was owed to him under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). A jury found Petitioner liable and awarded Respondent $17,440.86 in damages. Petitioner challenges the jury instructions issued by the district court. The Court found that the district court should not have instructed the jury that Petitioner bore a heightened burden of proof in establishing its entitlement to an FLSA exemption, the instruction was prejudicial errors, and therefore reversed and remanded.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Evidence Sufficient to Sustain Convictions for Leaving Scene of Accident but Double Jeopardy Violated

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its decision in People v. Arzabala on June 21, 2012.

Vehicular Assault—Leaving the Scene of an Accident—Evidence—Double Jeopardy—Unit of Prosecution—Jury Instructions—Prosecutorial Misconduct—Testimony.

Defendant appealed the judgment of conviction entered on jury verdicts finding him guilty of two counts of vehicular assault (reckless); two counts of leaving the scene of an accident; two counts of providing alcohol to a minor; and one count of aggravated driving after revocation prohibited (ADARP)—leaving the scene of an accident. The judgment was affirmed, the sentence was vacated, and the case was remanded.

Defendant was driving with two female passengers, K.E. and O.C., both of whom were 18 years old at the time. All three were drinking alcohol, which defendant had bought earlier that night. Defendant struck a car driven by K.P., who had been parked on the right side of the road and was attempting to make a U-turn at the time of the collision. K.P. and her passenger, E.P., were seriously injured. K.E. also hit her head and suffered minor injuries, but neither defendant nor O.C. was injured.

On appeal, defendant contended that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions for leaving the scene of an accident and for ADARP—leaving the scene of an accident. Although there was conflicting testimony at trial, the prosecution presented sufficient evidence that defendant left the scene after failing to provide his driver’s license and registration to the officers at the scene.

Defendant also contended that his two convictions for leaving the scene of an accident violated constitutional protections against double jeopardy. Here, defendant was charged with two counts of leaving the scene of an accident with serious bodily injury. One count corresponded to defendant’s leaving the scene of the accident resulting in serious bodily injury to K.P.; the other count corresponded to his leaving the scene of the same accident resulting in serious bodily injury to E.P. Thereafter, the trial court imposed two sentences of three years each corresponding to defendant’s two convictions for leaving the scene of an accident, to be served concurrently and concurrently with defendant’s five-year sentence for vehicular assault (reckless) against K.P. The unit of prosecution for the offense of leaving the scene of an accident, however, is the number of accident scenes, not the number of victims involved in any one accident. Therefore, defendant’s two convictions for leaving the scene of an accident violated his right to be free from double jeopardy. The case was remanded to the trial court with directions to merge defendant’s two convictions for leaving the scene of an accident into one; to vacate the sentence imposed as to one of the convictions; and to correct the mittimus accordingly.

Defendant also contended that the trial court reversibly erred by giving the jury two instructions that allegedly lessened the prosecution’s burden of proof and misled the jury in violation of his constitutional rights. The Court of Appeals disagreed. The jury instructions correctly instructed the jury on the elements of vehicular assault (reckless) and vehicular assault (DUI) and the proper culpable mental state necessary for a conviction for these charges.

Defendant contended that the prosecution twice committed misconduct during closing and rebuttal closing argument by misstating the law and the evidence. The prosecutor’s arguments, however, did not misstate the law and any references to incorrect facts were harmless.

The Court also rejected defendant’s contention that the trial court erred by admitting the testimony of K.P.’s mother. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting this testimony to show K.P.’s lack of injuries before the accident.

Defendant also argued that the trial court committed plain error by admitting his unredacted driving record into evidence. The driving record was relevant to show defendant had knowledge of his license revocation as a habitual offender under ADARP. Therefore, the trial court did not err by admitting the driving record.

Defendant further argued that the court erred by permitting the prosecution to elicit testimony from K.E. that she, defendant, and O.C. were en route to smoke marijuana at the time of the accident. K.E.’s testimony was relevant and admissible as res gestae evidence because it provided the fact finder with a fuller and more complete understanding of the surrounding events and context on the night of the accident. Therefore, there was no error in the admission of K.E.’s testimony.

Summary and full case available here.

Tenth Circuit: Jury Properly Instructed that Burden of Proving Affirmative Defense Rested on Defendant and that Jury Could Infer Defendant’s Associates Knew Vehicle Was Stolen

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals published its opinion in United States v. Burks on Tuesday, May 29, 2012.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s conviction. Petitioner “provided codes to an auto-theft ring that were used to create working keys for specific vehicles. One such vehicle—an Escalade—was stolen in Nevada, stripped to its frame, and subsequently discovered and auctioned by authorities. Several months later, the same Escalade, now reassembled, was identified in Utah. Based on this discovery, [Petitioner] was charged and convicted of aiding and abetting the possession and transportation of a stolen vehicle . . . . On appeal, [Petitioner] argues that the jury was improperly instructed on the affirmative defense of withdrawal and was allowed to make an improper inference that [Petitioner's] associates knew the vehicle was stolen.”

The Court disagreed with Petitioner’s contentions. “First, assuming that withdrawal is an affirmative defense to a conviction premised on accomplice liability, [the Court held] that the jury was properly instructed that the burden of proving the defense rested on[Petitioner]. Second, [the Court held] that the jury was properly instructed that it could infer that [Petitioner’s] associates knew the vehicle was stolen.” The Court also rejected Petitioner’s claims “that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction and that the district court erred in its restitution order.”