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United States v. Jimenez-Bermudez

December 3, 2007

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DIANA JIMENEZ-BERMUDEZ, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. John A. Houston United States District Judge

ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS THE INDICTMENT

Defendant Diana Jimenez-Bermudez has filed a Motion to Dismiss the Indictment Due to Erroneous Grand Jury Instruction. For the reasons discussed below, Defendant's motion is DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND

On February 28, 2007, a federal grand jury empaneled in this district on January 11, 2007 returned a two-count Indictment charging Defendant with Importation of Methamphetamine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 952 and 960, and Possession of Methamphetamine with Intent to Distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1).

II. CHALLENGED INSTRUCTIONS

A. Video Presentation

Prior to the selection of the grand jury jury, the potential grand jurors were shown a video titled "The Federal Grand Jury: The People's Panel." The video's apparent purpose is to educate potential grand jurors about their civic duty to serve, the function of the grand jury, and their responsibilities as grand jurors.

The video presents the story of a woman who serves on a grand jury for the first time. In one scene, after the woman receives the summons, her son tells her what he has learned about the function of a grand jury. Reading from a civics book, the son states that if the "jury finds that probable cause does exist, then it will return a written statement of charges called an indictment . . . ."

When charging the impaneled grand jury, the fictional judge explains that if the grand jury finds that there is probable cause, "you will return an indictment."

Later, the foreperson tells the other grand jurors that there are two purposes of the grand jury: (1) when there is a finding of probable cause, to bring the accused to trial fairly and swiftly; and (2) to protect the innocent against unfounded prosecution.

B. Voir Dire Session

Before commencing voir dire, the empaneling judge, the Hon. Larry A. Burns, explained the function of the grand jury to the prospective jurors as follows: "The grand jury is determining really two factors: 'Do we have a reasonable -- collectively, do we have a reasonable belief that a crime was committed? And second, do we have a reasonable belief that the person that they propose that we indict committed the crime?' If the answer is 'yes' to both of those, then the case should move forward. If the answer to either of the questions is 'no,' then the grand jury should hesitate and not indict." App. 2 to Gov't Response at 8.

During voir dire, Judge Burns explained to the potential grand jurors that the presentation of the evidence to the grand jury was going to be one-sided. Id. at 14. However, Judge Burns stated, "Now, having told you that, my experience is that the prosecutors don't play hide-the-ball. If there's something adverse or that cuts against the charge, you'll be informed of that. They have a duty to do that." Id. at 14-15.

One prospective juror, a retired clinical social worker, indicated that he did not believe that any drugs should be considered illegal. Id. at 16. He also stated that he had strong feelings about immigration cases and thought the government was spending a lot of time unnecessarily persecuting people. Id. The following exchange occurred:

The Court: Now, the question is can you fairly evaluate those cases? Just as the Defendant ultimately is entitled to a fair trial and the person that's accused is entitled to a fair appraisal of the evidence of the case that's in front of you, so, too, is the United States entitled to a fair judgment. If there's probable cause, then the case should go forward. I wouldn't want you to say, "Well, yeah, there's probable cause. But I still don't like what our Government is doing. I disagree with these laws, so I"m not going to vote for it to go forward." If that's your frame of mind, then probably you shouldn't serve. Only you can tell me that.

Prospective Juror: Well, I think I may fall in that category.

The Court: In the latter category?

Prospective Juror: Yes.

The Court: Where it would be difficult for you to support a charge even if you thought the evidence warranted it?

Prospective Juror: Yes.

The Court: I'm going to excuse you, then. I appreciate ...


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