United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
EDUARDO C. ROBRENO, JUDGE.
NOW, this 19th day of
December, 2017, upon consideration of
Defendant Tanaya Martin's Omnibus Pretrial Motions (ECF
No. 86), Defendant Ashley Sterling's Motion to Sever (ECF
No. 149), and the responses and replies thereto, and
following a hearing with counsel for the parties, it is
hereby ORDERED that:
1. Defendant Tanaya Martin's Omnibus Pretrial Motions
(ECF No. 86) are GRANTED in part and
DENIED in part. Defendant Martin's First
Motion for Joinder of Codefendants' Motions is
GRANTED with respect to Defendant Shamir
Kane's Motion to Suppress Out-of-Court and In-Court
Identifications and Statements (ECF No. 25), and
DENIED with respect to any other pending
motions. Defendant Martin's First Motion for a Hearing
Pursuant to United States v. Wade, 388 U.S. 218
(1967) is GRANTED. Defendant Martin's
First Motion to Compel 404(b) Evidence and First Motion for
Discovery of Brady, Giglio, and
Jencks Material are DENIED as moot.
2. Defendant Ashley Sterling's Motion to Sever (ECF No.
149) is DENIED.
Third Circuit has explained that the question of whether a
defendant will be prejudiced based upon more damaging
evidence against a co-defendant charged with a separate crime
depends on “whether the jury will be able to
‘compartmentalize the evidence as it relates to
separate defendants in view of its volume and limited
admissibility.'” United States v. Davis,
397 F.3d 173, 182 (3d Cir. 2005) (quoting United States
v. Somers, 496 F.2d 723, 730 (3d Cir. 1974)). If the
charges against the defendant moving to sever are
“relatively straightforward and discrete, ”
courts “do not doubt that the jury reasonably could
[be] expected to compartmentalize the evidence.”
United States v. Lore, 430 F.3d 190, 205 (3d Cir.
2005). However, the risk of prejudice may be
“heightened” when “many defendants are
tried together in a complex case and they have markedly
different degrees of culpability.” Zafiro, 506
U.S. at 539.
Sterling claims that she will be prejudiced because she had
no role in the robberies, and the jury may judge her guilty
by association of those “wholly unrelated”
crimes. Mot. Sever at 6. Sterling points to United States
v. Cotona, No. 07-26, 2007 WL 3124700 (D.N.J. Oct. 22,
2007), in which the court granted a defendant's motion to
sever a witness tampering charge against her from the trial
of ten other defendants for various bank and mail fraud
crimes relating to a five-year insurance fraud scheme. There,
the court granted the motion to sever after finding that the
witness tampering charge “relates to an act that
occurred temporally separate from, and does not involve facts
significant intertwined with, the other alleged
offenses.” Id. at *2. The court also noted
that, “absent severance, [the witness tampering
defendant] would likely suffer undue prejudice from evidence
proffered on the other charges, which would not necessarily
relate to the charge brought against her.” Id.
Sterling argues that the case against her should be severed
for the same reasons.
response, the Government argues that the evidence supporting
the witness tampering charge against Sterling overlaps
substantially with the evidence supporting the robbery
charges. The Government also notes that Sterling's crime
was not “wholly unrelated, ” as she is alleged to
have tampered with the witnesses to one of the robberies.
With respect to Cotona, the Government points out
that it was a much more complex case, and that the severed
defendant engaged in witness tampering with only one of the
ten other defendants, eight months after the end of the
scheme. Here, by contrast, Sterling tampered with a victim of
a robbery at the crime scene less than five months after the
Court finds that Sterling has not made a showing of clear and
substantial prejudice that would result from a joint trial.
Given the relatively straightforward evidence in this case,
there is little risk that the jury will not be able to
compartmentalize the evidence against Sterling from the
evidence against Kane and Martin. Further, the efficiencies
of a joint trial outweigh any minimal risk of prejudice, as
both cases would involve overlapping witnesses and evidence.
Cotona, which is not binding on this Court, is
distinguishable. Unlike the complex, five-year long scheme in
Cotona, the instant case involves three relatively
straightforward robberies. Therefore, the risk of prejudice
that was present in Cotona is not present here.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
A criminal defendant may file a motion
for severance of offenses or other defendants under Federal
Rule of Criminal Procedure 14, which provides that:
If the joinder of offenses or defendants in an
indictment, an information, or a consolidation for trial
appears to prejudice a defendant or the government, the court
may order separate trials of counts, sever the
defendants' trials, or ...