United States District Court, E.D. Washington
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR ACQUITTAL AND NEW TRIAL
THOMAS O. RICE, District Judge.
BEFORE THE COURT is Defendants' Motion for Judgment of Acquittal and for New Trial (ECF No. 644). This matter was submitted for consideration without argument. The Court has reviewed the record and files herein, and is fully informed.
On March 3, 2015, after a four-day trial, a jury found each Defendant guilty of manufacture of marijuana in an amount less than 100 but more than 50 marijuana plants in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 18 U.S.C. § 2. ECF Nos. 625 at 2-3, 627 at 2-3, 629 at 2-3. The jury acquitted Defendants on all other counts within the Superseding Indictment. See ECF Nos. 625, 627, 629. On March 17, 2015, Defendants moved for a judgment of acquittal and a new trial. ECF No. 644.
A. Motion for Judgment of Acquittal Under Rule 29
Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29 allows a criminal defendant to move for a judgment of acquittal following a jury verdict. Fed. R. Crim. P. 29(c). The Court may not grant a Rule 29 motion if, "viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the offenses charged beyond a reasonable doubt.'" United States v. Rosales, 516 F.3d 749, 751-52 (9th Cir. 2008) (quoting United States v. Hinton, 222 F.3d 664, 669 (9th Cir. 2000)). The Court must presume the jury resolved any conflicting inferences in the government's favor. Id. at 752.
Here, the Court provided the following jury instruction as to Count 2 of the Superseding Indictment, manufacture of marijuana: "In order for each Defendant to be found guilty of [manufacture of marijuana], the Government must prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt: First, the Defendant knowingly manufactured marijuana; and Second, the Defendant knew that it was marijuana." ECF No. 621 at 25 (Final Instruction No. 22). The Court also instructed the jury that a Defendant may be convicted of manufacture of marijuana if he or she aided and abetted another in committing this offense. Id. at 26 (Final Instruction No. 23). Finally, this Court instructed the jury that if a Defendant is found guilty of the charge, it was to unanimously find beyond a reasonable doubt the amount of marijuana manufactured. Id. at 27 (Final Instruction No. 24).
Over the course of the trial, the government presented the following evidence, as offered through witness testimony and graphic evidence, in support of Count 2 of the Superseding Indictment: (1) law enforcement officials, pursuant to a valid search warrant, located the marijuana grow near the Firestack-Harvey residence; (2) waterlines, storage tanks, and pumps were located near the grow and a power line ran from the shed on the property to the grow; (3) officials found 74 marijuana plants growing in the area; (4) the outbuilding on the property was equipped with drying racks, labeled by marijuana type; (5) officials found a large container of processed marijuana, some of which was vacuum sealed and labeled, in the den of the residence, as well as a vacuum sealer, plastic bags for the vacuum sealer, and a digital scale; (6) the den also contained paperwork evidencing growing and harvesting of marijuana and possible drug records during 2011 and 2012; (7) as testified to by Jason Zucker at trial, each of the Defendants assisted in the marijuana grow in both 2011 and 2012, and he had purchased the items used to establish the operation, including providing 75 plants in both years; and (8) finally, the officers found computer files, obtained from a computer at the Firestack-Harvey residence, depicting images dated 2011 of the Defendants at the grow operation, a large quantity of marijuana being dried, and electronic copies of the purported drug records found in the den.
Viewing all evidence together in the light most favorable to the prosecution, the Court concludes that the evidence was sufficient to find, beyond a reasonable doubt, Defendants guilty of the manufacture of at least 50 but not more than 100 marijuana plants, a crime under federal law. See Rosales, 516 F.3d at 751-52. Defendants have never denied that law enforcement officers found approximately 75 growing marijuana plants during the August 2012 search of the Firestack-Harvey residence; rather, they have maintained these plants were lawfully grown for their medical needs under Washington state law. See ECF No. 644 at 2. Accordingly, a judgment of acquittal is not warranted here.
B. Motion for New Trial Under Rule 33
Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33(a) allows a court to "vacate any judgment and grant a new trial if the interest of justice so requires." Fed. R. Crim. P. 33(a). "A district court's power to grant a motion for a new trial is much broader than its power to grant 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." Id. (citation omitted).
As the Court's review of the evidence above indicates, the evidence, viewed in a light most favorable to the prosecution, did not weigh heavily against a finding of guilt. Further, pursuant to this Court's power to weigh the evidence presented, this Court finds that the Government's witnesses testified credibly and that the corroborating evidence strongly supported a guilty verdict as to Count 2 of the Superseding Indictment. Thus, this Court concludes no serious miscarriage of justice will occur based upon the weight of the evidence.
This Court now turns to the following four contentions raised by Defendants in the instant motion to determine if a new trial is nonetheless warranted: (1) the duplicity flaw in Count 2 Superseding Indictment, (2) the prosecution's constructive amendment of Count 2 of the Superseding Indictment at trial, (3) the exclusion of medical evidence that would have aided the defense, and (4) the unconstitutional prosecution and scheduling of marijuana under the Controlled Substances ...