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United States v. Davis

United States District Court, D. Idaho

May 16, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
JENS RANDALL DAVIS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER RE: DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR MISTRIAL

          Honorable Edward J. Lodge, U.S. District Judge

         Pending before the Court in the above-entitled matter is the Defendant's, Jens Randall Davis, Motion for Mistrial made during the jury trial in this matter. On May 9, 2019, the Court held a hearing on the Motion and, after considering the parties' arguments and entire record, orally denied the Motion. This Order memorializes the Court's ruling in writing.

         BACKGROUND

         On the first day of trial, defense counsel asked Deputy Shawn Weigelt of the Canyon County Sheriff's office on cross-examine if he recalled recording his contact with the Defendant on January 10, 2018 on his body camera and whether he uploaded the recording to his department's server. The witness said he did. Defense counsel then asked if the officer had signed the arrest report. The witness said he had. The arrest report includes a reference to attached discharge paperwork. The defense counsel asked the witness asked what the attached document was and where it was located. The witness replied that the attached document was the Defendant's intake file but the Government objected as to relevance as to where the document was located.

         Defense counsel asked the Court for an opportunity to be heard, after which the Court excused the jury. Defendant's counsel then moved for a mistrial, based on the fact that the body camera recording had not been produced in discovery and the intake file had not been attached to the produced arrest report. The Government made argument in response, stating that it was not aware the body camera recording existed and promised to provide it to defense counsel. At that time, the Court orally denied the motion for mistrial.

         On the morning of the second day of trial, the Government produced to the Defendant the witness' body camera recordings-three audio files and one video file-and the hospital discharge paperwork attached to the arrest report.[1] The three audio recordings contained statements made by the Defendant at the hospital while under police custody. The video recording showed the officer searching the Defendant's wallet. The hospital discharge paperwork provided general emergency department discharge instructions and noted the Defendant was evaluated for potential mental health issues.

         The Court excused the jury for the day in order to (1) provide the Defendant time to review the body camera recordings and the complete arrest report and (2) determine if he wanted to raise any legal arguments concerning the newly discovered material. After review of the newly discovered material, defense counsel again moved for a mistrial and made argument in support, and the Government made argument in response.

         After hearing the arguments of counsel, the Court orally denied the Defendant's motion for a mistrial. It instead granted the Defendant a continuance of five days to allow the Defendant time to consider the newly disclosed evidence and prepare its case, although the parties later stipulated to the jury trial proceeding as originally scheduled. The Court further advised it would allow the Defendant to recall witnesses and conduct additional cross-examination of witnesses based on the newly discovered evidence and directed the Government to ensure all discovery material was produced to the Defendant. It found no bad faith by the Government in its failure to disclose the material.

         DISCUSSION

         In a criminal case, a court may declare a mistrial when there is “manifest necessity.” In determining whether there is manifest necessity, a trial court must (1) hear the opinions of the parties about the propriety of the mistrial, (2) consider the alternatives to a mistrial and choose the alternative least harmful to a defendant's rights, and/or (3) act deliberately instead of abruptly. United States v. Chapman, 524 F.3d 1073, 1082 (9th Cir. 2008). The court considers various matters, which can include the particular details of the information that was not disclosed, whether the failure to disclose was intended or inadvertent, the subject matter of the case, the time frame of the trial in which the disclosure occurred, the timely objection by the defendant, and related matters that are all within the immediate knowledge of the trial judge. Ultimately, its decision must be based on evidence presented in the record. Id. “[T]he district court [is] not required to make an explicit finding of manifest necessity or to articulate on the record all the factors which informed its discretion.” Id. at 1081 (quoting United States v. Smith, 621 F.2d 350, 351 (9th Cir. 1980) (alterations in original).

         Here, the Defendant moves for a mistrial based on the late disclosure of potential Brady evidence. See generally Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). The Government contends there was (1) no discovery violation under Rule 16 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure in failing to disclose the body camera recordings and the complete arrest report and (2) no violation of the Defendant's rights under Brady. The Court first turns to whether the Government violated Rule 16 before it considers whether the Defendant's due process rights were violated.

         1. Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 16

         The Defendant argues the Government had possession of the body camera recordings and the complete arrest report and, therefore, had an obligation to disclose them. The Government denied it possessed the material prior to the second day of trial because the recordings and the complete arrest report were held by a state law enforcement agency.

         Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 16 grants criminal defendants a broad right to discovery. The government must disclose, upon a defendant's request, all “data . . . within the government's possession, custody, or control . . . material to preparing the defense[.]” Fed. R. Crim. P. 16(a)(1)(E)(i). Information is in the government's possession if the prosecutor “has knowledge of and access to the documents sought by the defendant.” United States v. Santiago, 46 F.3d 885, 893 (9th Cir. 1995). “For the purposes of Rule 16(a)(1)(E), [the Ninth Circuit] has held, ‘[t]he prosecutor will be deemed to have knowledge of and access to anything in the possession, custody or control of any federal agency participating in the same investigation of the defendant.'” United States v. Fort, 478 F.3d 1099, 1100 (9th Cir. 2007) (citing United States v. Bryan, 868 F.2d 1032, 1036 (9th Cir. 1989)); see United States v. Gatto, 763 F.2d 1040, 1049 (9th Cir. 1985) (holding the government's failure to disclose the documents earlier did not violate Rule 16 because the state-held documents were not in the government's actual possession). Evidence becomes “discoverable only when the state authorities place[] it in the hands of the federal authorities, because ‘the triggering requirement under rule 16[(a)(1)(E)] is that the papers, documents, and tangible objects be in the actual possession, custody or control of the [federal] government.'” United States v. Fort, 472 F.3d 1106, 1118 (9th Cir. 2007) (quoting Gatto, 763 F.2d at 1049).

         The witness from the county sheriff's department provided the body camera recordings and the completed arrest report to the Government on the morning of the second day of trial. Prior to this time, the Government had made repeated attempts to secure all of the material in the state's possession but did not know that the body camera recordings existed or that the produced arrest report was incomplete. Upon receiving the newly discovered material, the Government immediately disclosed them to the Defendant. The Court finds no willful violation by the Government in its failure to turn over the state body camera recordings or the complete state arrest report prior to the trial. ...


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