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United States v. Farmer

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 11, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
JULIE DIANNE FARMER, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER RE DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT OF ACQUITTAL AND IN THE ALTERNATIVE MOTION FOR NEW TRIAL AND REQUEST FOR JUROR INFORMATION AND EVIDENTIARY HEARING (DOCS. 484, 488)

LAWRENCE J. O'NEILL, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

On April 22, 2014, a jury convicted Defendant Julie Dianne Farmer ("Defendant" or "Farmer") of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, and bank fraud under 18 U.S.C. § 1349; mail fraud under 18 U.S.C. § 1341; and wire fraud under 18 U.S.C. § 1343 for her involvement in a large-scale mortgage fraud scheme perpetrated by Crisp, Cole & Associates and Tower Lending ("CCRE"). Doc. 441. The jury acquitted Defendant on the four remaining mail fraud counts, two wire fraud counts, and the conspiracy to launder money count. Id.

Defendant moves for a judgment of acquittal under Fed. R. Crim P. 29(c) or in the alternative for a new trial under Fed. R. Crim. P. 33(a). Doc. 484 at 1. Defendant asserts she is entitled to a judgment of acquittal because the evidence was insufficient to support the jury's verdict. Id. at 2. Likewise, Defendant argues that she is entitled to a new trial because the verdict was contrary to the weight of the evidence. Id. at 9. Further, Defendant claims that she is entitled to a new trial because of the Court's exclusion of testimony from Dr. Howard Terrell and Dr. Harold Seymour. Id. Defendant also requests juror information and an evidentiary hearing regarding "[a]n issue of potential jury influence." Doc. 488 at 1.

For the reasons discussed below, the Court DENIES Defendant's motion for a judgment of acquittal, motion for a new trial, and request for juror identification and an evidentiary hearing.

II. STANDARD OF DECISION

Evidence is sufficient to support a conviction when, "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." Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319 (1979); see also United States v. Nevils, 598 F.3d 1158, 1163-64 (9th Cir. 2010) (en banc). Under Jackson, the Court must conduct a two-step inquiry to determine whether the evidence is sufficient to support the conviction:

First, [the] court must consider the evidence presented at trial in the light most favorable to the prosecution.... Second, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, [the] court must determine whether this evidence, so viewed, is adequate to allow any rational trier of fact to find the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

Nevils, 598 F.3d at 1164 (citing Jackson, 443 U.S. at 319) (emphasis in original). Under Jackson, the "jury's credibility determinations are... entitled to near-total deference." Bruce v. Terhune, 376 F.3d 950, 957 (9th Cir. 2004).

A motion for a new trial may be granted under Fed. R. Crim P. 33 only if the Court "concludes that... the evidence preponderates sufficiently heavily against the verdict that a serious miscarriage of justice may have occurred." United States v. Kellington, 217 F.3d 1084, 1097 (9th Cir. 2000) (quoting United States v. Alston, 974 F.2d 1206, 1211 (9th Cir. 1992)). Grounds for a new trial are present only in "exceptional circumstances." United States v. Del Toro-Barboza, 673 F.3d 1136, 1153 (9th Cir. 2012).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Defendant's Motion for Acquittal.

Defendant does not dispute the existence of the fraud scheme perpetrated by CCRE, but denies having any knowledge of it. Defendant argues the evidence was insufficient to support the jury's verdict in that the "Government has not proved the requisite criminal intent." Doc. 484 at 5. Specifically, Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to establish that she "knew of a scheme to defraud or was involved in a scheme to defraud." Id. at 4. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, the Court finds that the evidence was adequate to allow a rational trier of fact ...


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