United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
BRAMLETTE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
cause is before the Court on defendant Mark Randall
Jones' Motion for Acquittal (docket entry 200), Motion
for New Trial (docket entry 201), and Motion for Arresting
Judgment (docket entry 202). Having carefully reviewed the
motions, responses, and applicable law, and being otherwise
fully informed in the premises, the Court finds as follows:
Facts & Procedural History
two-count indictment filed in 2009, Defendant Mark Randall
Jones was charged with (1) conspiracy to possess with intent
to distribute more than five kilograms of cocaine
hydrochloride and (2) possession with intent to distribute
more than 500 grams of cocaine hydrochloride. Following a
three-day jury trial on March 29, 2017, Jones was found
guilty as to both counts. On April 10, 2017, Jones filed
three post-trial motions seeking a judgment of acquittal, a
new trial, and an arrest of the judgment. Jones' Notice
of Appeal followed shortly thereafter.
Motions for Judgment of Acquittal and New Trial
Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29, the Court must set
aside a jury verdict and enter a judgment of acquittal if
“the evidence is insufficient to sustain a
conviction” of the offenses charged in the indictment.
Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(a), (c). When reviewing a Rule 29 motion,
the Court considers “whether, after viewing the
evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any
rational trier of fact could have found the essential
elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.”
U.S. v. Mix, 791 F.3d 603, 612 (5th Cir. 2015); see
U.S. v. Beacham, 774 F.3d 267, 272 (5th Cir. 2014)
(review of the sufficiency of the evidence is “highly
deferential to the verdict”); U.S. v. Bates,
850 F.3d 807, 810 (5th Cir. 2017) (“the mere presence
of some conflicting evidence in the record does not render a
jury verdict improper”). “[Q]uestions as to the
weight of the evidence or the credibility of witnesses [are]
foreclosed by the jury's verdict.” U.S. v.
Curtis, 2014 WL 4370675, *1 (S.D.Miss. Sept. 2, 2014).
for new trial are governed by Rule 33, which allows the Court
to vacate a judgment and grant a new trial “if the
interest of justice so requires.” Fed. R. Crim. P.
33(a). Unlike a motion for judgment of acquittal, the Court
may weigh the evidence and assess the credibility of
witnesses when considering a motion for new trial. U.S.
v. Robertson, 110 F.3d 1113, 1117 (5th Cir. 1997)
(citing Tibbs v. Florida, 457 U.S. 31, 37-38
(1982)). While motions for new trial are reviewed under a
more lenient standard than motions for judgment of acquittal,
such motions are generally disfavored and “must be
reviewed with great caution.” U.S. v. Smith,
804 F.3d 724, 734 (5th Cir. 2015). The Court “should
not grant a motion for new trial unless there would be a
miscarriage of justice or the weight of the evidence
preponderates against the verdict.” U.S. v.
Wall, 389 F.3d 457, 466 (5th Cir. 2004). A new trial is
granted “only upon demonstration of adverse effects on
substantial rights of [the] defendant. U.S. v.
Rasco, 123 F.3d 222, 228 (5th Cir. 1997).
first raised his ore tenus Rule 29 Motion at the
close of the Government's case-in-chief. At that time,
the defendant urged the Court to enter a judgment of
acquittal for the following reasons: (1) the postal inspector
lacked reasonable suspicion to seize packages mailed by the
defendant; (2) the narcotics seized in this case were
destroyed prior to trial; (3) the admission of evidence
recovered in California was improper under Federal Rule of
Evidence 403 and 404(b); (4) the admission of evidence
recovered from a Flowood, Mississippi apartment was improper
under Rule 403 and 404(b); (5) the evidence recovered in
California and Mississippi was beyond the scope of the
indictment and should have been suppressed; (6) the evidence
recovered in California and Mississippi should have been
excluded because the search warrant returns failed to comply
with Rule 41; and (7) the Government presented insufficient
proof to establish that the packages in Mississippi were
searched after, rather than before, search warrants were
obtained. The Court denied the defendant's Rule
29 motion, and Jones subsequently took the stand to testify
in his own defense.
renewed Rule 29 motion, Jones reasserts the arguments
advanced in his earlier motions and maintains that the
evidence presented at trial was insufficient to sustain a
conviction as to either charge. Additionally, Jones contends
that the Court erred by overruling his objections to certain
hearsay testimony and jury instructions. The defendant's
motion for new trial is premised on the same arguments
contained in his renewed motion for judgment of acquittal.
Many of the issues raised in Jones' post-trial motions
have been addressed on the record. Nevertheless, the Court
will supplement its record findings by revisiting each
argument briefly in the context of Rule 29 and Rule 33.
Search and Seizure of Mailed Packages
Jaworowski, a United States Postal Inspector Service
employee, testified that he saw Mark Randall Jones enter a
post office in Los Angeles, California on or about June 4,
2008, where he placed two packages in the wall chute for
mailing. The sender's name on the packages was listed as
“Delilah S. Maddox, YMI, Inc., ” and both
packages were labeled with a Jackson, Mississippi return
address. Both packages were addressed to “Mr. Horace
Hampton, RAMTEC SERVER, ” but the boxes listed
different addresses for the intended recipient. One package
was addressed to a location in Clinton, Mississippi and the
other to a location in Flowood, Mississippi. The sender and
recipient names were eventually determined to be fraudulent.
After identifying the packages and Jones' behavior as
suspicious, Jaworowski seized the boxes, which were later
searched and found to contain cocaine hydrochloride. After
considering the totality of the circumstances giving rise to
Jaworowski's suspicion, in light of the Postal
Service's “drug package profile” and the
agent's years of training and experience working in
narcotics investigations, the Court concluded that
Jaworowski's initial seizure was supported by reasonable
the subsequent search, there was testimony that agents
conducted a controlled dog search of the packages after they
arrived in Jackson, Mississippi. Agents testified that the
drug sniffing dog alerted to both packages on June 5 and that
they opened the boxes on June 6 after obtaining search
warrants. The defense challenged this testimony by pointing
to conflicting entries in the agents' daily work logs and
accompanying warrant returns. Nonetheless, the agents offered
explanations for the discrepancies in the dates recorded, and
the Court was satisfied that the packages were opened after
proper warrants were obtained. Moreover, the Court was
unconvinced that, based on the evidence, any errors in the
warrant returns were intentional or deliberate.
previously denied Jones' motion to suppress as to these
issues, the Court again concludes that the initial seizure
and subsequent search of the mailed packages ...