In U.S. v. LeCroy, No. 04-15597 (March 2, 2006), the Court (Tjoflat, Anderson, Marcus) affirmed the conviction and death sentence of a federal inmate for a 2001 carjacking murder (and rape) in Georgia.
The Court rejected the challenge to the constitutionality of the Federal Death Penalty Act. The defendant claimed that it was unconstitutional because it does not require prosecutors to charge aggravating facts warranting the death penalty in the indictment. The Court noted, however, that in LeCroy’s case the prosecutors had charged one aggravating fact in the indictment. The Court found no constitutional flaw in the indictment since it did not prevent (as happened here) the grand jury from charging an aggravating fact in the indictment. The Court also rejected the argument that all aggravating factors must be charged in the indictment. The Court noted that non-statutory factors need only be considered by a jury after the defendant has been found death eligible. Therefore, failure to include them in the indictment did not violate the Constitution.
The Court also rejected the argument that the jury should have been instructed to consider the option of convicting LeCroy on the lesser included offense of carjacking without death of another person. The Court noted that the carjacking statute contemplates taking a motor vehicle "by force." In this case, the "force" could only be the murder charged. Therefore, there was no lesser offense instruction to be given.
The Court also rejected the sufficiency of the evidence argument, which claimed no carjacking could be proved because of the passage of time between the murder and the carjacking. Citing U.S. v, Kimble, 178 F.3d 1163 (11th Cir. 1999), the Court noted that even though the use of force can be "in the past" in relation to the carjacking, this does not preclude the commission of carjacking. The Court pointed out that the main, if only, purpose of the murder was to take the victim’s car.
The Court also rejected a Rule 404(b) challenge to the admission of a prior conviction that was 10 years old, pointing out that it has upheld admission of 15-year old convictions, and that LeCroy’s incarceration in the intervening period increased the probative value of the prior conviction.
The Court rejected a challenge to the "expert" testimony of a policeman that it looked like a bloody knife had been wiped on the shirt of the victim. This was not expert testimony, but eyewitness testimony.
The Court also rejected the argument that the defendant was prejudiced because he did not call his expert witnesses for fear of rebuttal evidence the government would put on. The Court noted that the in limine ruling permitting the rebuttal evidence was not reviewable on appeal. The defendant did not put on his evidence, and was now precluded from having the Court speculate as to what he would have said, and what the rebuttal evidence would have said.
The Court also rejected the argument that the government should have provided advance notice of the evidence it intended to introduce concerning aggravating factors. No such obligation exists at law, the Court held.
Finally, the Court rejected, applying plain error review, the argument that "future dangerousness" was not a proper aggravating factor. The Court found no law to support this argument.