Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Friday, September 16, 2005

Miranda: Reversing judgment of acquittal

In U.S. v. Miranda, No. 04-15920 (Sept. 14, 2005), the Court (Tjoflat, Pryor, Alarcon b.d.) reversed a judgment of acquittal granted to a defendant convicted of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.
The district court had found the evidence insufficient to sustain a conviction, concluding that it only showed that Miranda was present in an apartment containing methamphetamine, and fled to a back room when police stormed the premises. Reversing, the Court pointed to a number of facts which the jury could have attached incriminatory inferences to. Miranda had a pre-existing relationship with a significant drug figure. Miranda was present in the aparmtment when durgs were being couriered, and possibly discussed. There was a pervasive smell of acetone in the apartment. When officers raided the apartment, Miranda immediately ran to a back bedroom which contained large quantities of drugs, and two firearms, thereby attempting to protect the drugs from being seized and use guns to do so. (This evidence also supported Miranda’s conviction for possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime).
Further, the district court relied on exculpatory evidence that was not presented to the jury. This should not have been considered in the motion for acquittal.
The Court rejected Miranda’s argument that the judgment of acquittal, alternatively, should be upheld based on the prosecutorial misconduct at trial. The Court pointed out that Rule 29 refers only to the insufficiency of the evidence.
The Court recognized that, on remand, the district court was free to reconsider its denial of Miranda’s motion for new trial, despite Miranda’s failure to cross-appeal this issue. The Court expressed on view on the merits of this motion.