United States District Court, D. Montana, Billings Division
ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL
P. WATTERS, U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
Defendant, Ryan McGuire, has filed a motion for a new trial
in this matter. (Doc. 91.) The Court denies McGuire's
two-day trial, a jury found McGuire guilty of conspiracy to
distribute methamphetamine and distribution of
methamphetamine. (Docs. 77, 80.) McGuire timely filed a
motion for a new trial (Doc. 91), and that motion is now
ripe. McGuire states there are two bases for the Court
granting his motion. (Doc. 92 at 2.)
McGuire argues the Court erred by sustaining an objection the
Government made to admitting testimony McGuire's trial
counsel attempted to illicit from Agent Joseph Osborne.
McGuire's trial counsel planned to ask Agent Osborne
about a statement one of McGuire's coconspirators, Angela
Killen, made purportedly identifying a different individual
as the one who supplied the meth for the undercover buy that
led to McGuire's charges. The Government objected on
hearsay grounds, and the Court sustained the objection.
McGuire argues the Court erred by granting the
Government's motion to compel McGuire to roll up his left
sleeve during trial and display his tattoos to a witness for
identification purposes. (Id. at 7-10.) Upon seeing
McGuire the morning of trial, the Government alleged he had
substantially changed his appearance since the time of his
arrest. The Government therefore moved to compel McGuire to
display the tattoos on his left arm and hands to witnesses
and the jury. The Court granted the Government's motion
and required McGuire to display the tattoos on his left arm
to the Government's first witness, Special Agent
Christopher Cavanaugh. After seeing the tattoos, Special
Agent Cavanaugh was able to positively identify McGuire.
McGuire contends (as he did at trial) that the Court's
ruling violated his Fifth Amendment rights and his right to
present a defense. (Id.)
Crim. P. 33 governs motions for new trials and authorizes the
Court, upon the defendant's motion, to "vacate any
judgment and grant a new trial if the interest of justice so
requires." The Court's discretion when granting a
motion for a new trial is much broader than when granting a
motion for judgment of acquittal. United States v. A.
Lanoy Alston, D.M.D., P.C, 974 F.2d 1206, 1211 (9th Cir.
1992). "The district court need not view the evidence in
the light most favorable to the verdict; it may weigh the
evidence and in so doing evaluate for itself the credibility
of the witnesses." United States v. Lincoln,
630 F.2d 1313, 1319 (8th Cir. 1980).
The Government's hearsay objection.
is "a statement that: (1) the declarant does not make
while testifying at the current trial or hearing; and (2) a
party offers in evidence to prove the truth of the matter
asserted in the statement." Fed.R.Evid. 801(c). Hearsay
is inadmissible unless the Federal Rules of Evidence, a
federal statute, or another rule prescribed by the Supreme
Court provide otherwise. Fed.R.Evid. 802.
Killen's statements to law enforcement are (and were)
hearsay. McGuire attempted to admit Angela Killen's
statements through Agent Osborne to prove the truth of the
matter asserted-that is, another individual provided the meth
during the undercover buy, not McGuire. However, McGuire
asserts two reasons for why the Court should have admitted
the hearsay: first, the Government's objection unlawfully
suppressed exculpatory evidence; second, the Court's
refusal to admit the hearsay statements violated
McGuire's right of due process of law. (Doc. 92 at 4-7.)
relies on Benn v. Lambert, 283 F.3d 1040, 1052-53
(9th Cir. 2002) in support of his first argument. His
reliance is misplaced. In Benn, the 9th Circuit
affirmed a district court's decision to grant a petition
for a writ of habeas corpus because state prosecutors had
failed to disclose critical evidence favorable to the
petitioner-i.e., Brady material under Brady v.
Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). Nothing of the sort
happened here, and McGuire does not allege the Government
failed to turn over exculpatory evidence. McGuire plainly had
access to Angela Killen's statements. Benn and
Brady are irrelevant.
second argument, McGuire relies on Chambers v.
Mississippi,410 U.S. 284 (1973). Like his reliance on
Benn, McGuire's reliance on Chambers is
misplaced. In Chambers, after Chambers was arrested
for murder, another individual, McDonald, made but later
repudiated a written confession to the crime. Id. at
288-89. On three separate occasions, McDonald also confessed
to the murder in private conversations with friends.
Id. Chambers proceeded to trial, but when Chambers
called McDonald to testify, the trial court prevented him
from cross-examining McDonald about the confessions because,
under Mississippi's voucher rule, he could not
impeach his own ...