Friday, March 04, 2011

"This appeal is about usurping the role of the jury in a criminal trial byrelying upon racial stereotypes."

That's how Judge Pryor started the opinion in United States v. Almanzar. Also on the panel was Judge Carnes and our very own Judge Seitz.

The rest of the opinion's intro:

The key question presented is whether there is sufficient evidence to support a jury verdict that Araceli Almanzar knowingly possessed with the intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine. 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A). The United States appeals the judgment of acquittal and conditional grant of a new trial entered in favor of Almanzar after a jury found her guilty of the charged offense. During a traffic stop of a truck loaded with 6,665 grams of methamphetamine in a hidden compartment, Almanzar exercised control over the truck and gave both written and verbal consent to its search, lied to a state trooper about the ownership of the truck and her acquisition of it, presented a phony bill of sale, and appeared to be so nervous as to be on the verge of a “panic attack,” with her hands shaking and her mouth dry. Almanzar later admitted that she had lied to the state trooper because her travel by bus from Dallas to Atlanta with her brother to retrieve the truck from two strangers was “suspicious.” She also admitted that she knew the truck contained “something we were not supposed to have.” Before the district court entered a judgment of acquittal, it stated that “life is different for a Hispanic woman in a male dominated culture, . . . the cultural expectations are different and that Hispanic women frequently, basically, do what their male family members ask them to do without asking lots of questions.” The United States argues that the evidence was sufficient to support the jury’s verdict and the district court applied the wrong standard of review, relied on speculation and impermissible stereotypes, considered information not in the record, and substituted its judgment for that of the jury. The United States also argues that the jury’s verdict was not a miscarriage of justice that would support the grant of a new trial. We agree with both arguments of the United States. We vacate in part, reverse in part, and remand with instructions to reinstate the jury’s verdict and conduct further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Who got this one right -- the district judge or the 11th Circuit?

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