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United States v. Self

July 28, 2010

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
HAZIZ SELF



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Diamond, J.

MEMORANDUM

After the jury in this drug prosecution convicted Defendant Haziz Self, an alternate juror -- who did not deliberate -- suggested that several regular jurors had told her that they voted guilty even though they did not necessarily agree with that verdict. Defendant now seeks permission under Local Criminal Rule 24.1(c) to interview the alternate juror. For the following reasons, I will deny Defendant's request.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Trial

On July 29, 2009, the grand jury charged Haziz Self and his brother Rahmmar Self with distribution of five grams or more of cocaine base and distribution of cocaine base within 1,000 feet of a public housing facility. See 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1); 21 U.S.C. § 860(a); Doc. No. 1. Those charges stemmed from the same March 4, 2009 events.

On September 9, 2009, the grand jury returned a superseding indictment, charging Rahmmar Self with two additional counts of distribution of crack cocaine, two additional counts of distribution of cocaine base within 1,000 feet of a public housing facility, and one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. See 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1); Doc. No. 27. The five new counts stemmed from events that occurred at the same public housing facility on July 27 and August 4, 2009. (Id.) On May 17, 2010, Rahmmar Self pled guilty to all seven charges. (Doc. No. 111.)

Defendant's trial began on June 22, 2010 with the selection of twelve regular jurors and two alternates. The evidence against Defendant was overwhelming, including video and audio recordings of the March 4th events, the testimony of eyewitness law enforcement officers, and testimony from the individual who purchased the crack cocaine from Defendant.

At 1:20 p.m. on June 24th, having completed my final jury instructions, I separated the two alternates from the twelve regular jurors who then began their deliberations. The alternates thus were not present in the jury room and did not either witness or participate in the deliberations. Approximately two hours later, the foreman told my Courtroom Deputy that the jury had reached a verdict. At 3:33 p.m.,the foreman announced the jury's unanimous verdict: guilty as to both counts. I then polled the jurors, each of whom confirmed his or her agreement with the verdict as announced.

B. The Alternate Juror's Allegations

Some minutes after the courtroom had emptied, the Second Alternate Juror approached my Deputy and said that "several" of the regular jurors had told her that they went along with the verdict even though they did not necessarily agree with it. My Deputy asked the Alternate to write down her name and telephone number, along with the names of the "several" jurors. The Deputy placed the writing in a sealed envelope and then gave the envelope to me. After her own name and phone number, the Alternate had written the name of only one regular juror.

The next day -- June 25, 2010 -- I conducted an on-the-record telephone conference, informed counsel of the Alternate's allegations, and provided each lawyer with a copy of the Alternate's writing. (Doc. Nos. 140, 141.) Defense counsel "request[ed that] there be some notification to the twelve jurors that reached the verdict that they be, pursuant to [Fed. R. Evid.] 606(b), that there be some inquiry by the Court." (Doc. No. 140, Tr. at 3.) I indicated that although the Third Circuit's rulings in this area made it extremely unlikely that Defendant was entitled to such a wide-ranging "inquiry," counsel was free to seek the relief he believed was appropriate. (Id. at 4-5.) See United States v. Stansfield, 101 F.3d 909 (3d Cir. 1996).

In fact, on July 13, 2010, Defendant considerably narrowed his request, moving to interview the Second Alternate Juror pursuant to Local Criminal Rule 24.1(c). (Doc. No. 142.) Defendant argues that "the statements made by the sitting juror(s) to the alternate juror pertain directly to whether the sitting jurors complied with their oath and responsibility in deliberations prior to rendering a verdict." (Id. at 1.) The Government opposes Defendant's request. (Doc. No. 146.)

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

Defendant's request implicates two closely related questions: (1) when post-trial juror interviews may be allowed; and (2) when juror testimony may be used to impeach a verdict. These questions, in turn, implicate two closely related ...


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