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United States v. Harris

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

September 30, 2016

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiffs,
v.
MUSA J. HARRIS, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          CHERYL R. ZWART UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Defendant Musa Harris, who is represented by appointed counsel, has filed the following pro se motions:

Filing No. 59: Motion to Sever
Filing No. 62: Motion and Demand for Disclosure of Exculpatory Evidence
Filing No. 65: Motion For Early Disclosure Of Grand Jury Transcripts

         Having considered the pro se defendant's submissions, the motions will be denied.

         Motion to Sever (Filing No. 59)

         Isa Harris and Musa Harris, co-defendants in this action, are siblings. They are charged in a Superseding Indictment with conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine. (Filing No. 31).

         Generally, persons charged in a conspiracy or jointly indicted on similar evidence should be tried together. United States v. Lewis, 557 F.3d 601, 609 (8th Cir. 2009); United States v. Brown, 331 F.3d 591, 595 (8th Cir. 2003). But even when joinder is proper under Rule 8, pursuant to Rule 14 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, a judge may order severance if joinder at trial will prejudice the defendant. Lewis, 557 F.3d at 609; United States v. Wadena, 152 F.3d 831, 849 (8th Cir. 1998). Rule 14 provides:

If it appears that a defendant or the government is prejudiced by a joinder of offenses or of defendants in an indictment or information or by such joinder for trial together, the court may order an election or separate trials of counts, grant a severance of defendants or provide whatever other relief justice requires. In ruling on a motion by a defendant for severance the court may order the attorney for the government to deliver to the court for inspection in camera any statements or confessions made by the defendants which the government intends to introduce in evidence at the trial.

Fed.R.Crim.P. 14.

         When defendants are properly joined, a strong presumption exists in favor of trying the defendants together because a joint trial affords the jury the best perspective on all of the evidence, thereby increasing the likelihood of a correct outcome. Lewis, 557 F.3d at 6099. This presumption can only be overcome if the prejudice is “severe or compelling.” United States v. Crumley, 528 F.3d 1053, 1063 (8th Cir.2008). The defendant seeking severance carries a heavy burden and “must show ‘real prejudice, ' that is, ‘something more than the mere fact that [s]he would have had a better chance for acquittal had [s]he been tried separately.” United States v. Mickelson, 378 F.3d 810, 817 (8th Cir. 2004)(quoting United States v. Oakie, 12 F.3d 1436, 1441 (8th Cir. 1993) (citing United States v. Adkins, 842 F.2d 210, 211-12 (8th Cir.1988))).

         Musa Harris argues “the spill-over effect” of Isa Harris' past and present bad acts will be unfairly prejudicial to Musa Harris if the defendants are tried together. In support of this claim, Musa Harris outlines his work history, arguing he “would have to be two persons” to both run a full scale drug distribution network and perform his lawful employment responsibilities. He further argues any contacts with his brother in Nebraska were solely sibling family visits.

         Musa Harris has presented no evidence that a jury will be unable to compartmentalize the evidence, by defendant, or that a limiting instruction would be insufficient. He presents little more than ...


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