Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Monday, May 14, 2007

Edouard: No Erroneous Failure to Appoint Interpreter

In U.S. v. Edouard, No. 05-15808 (May 11, 2007), the Court affirmed the convictions and sentences of defendants involved in large-scale cocaine-trafficking between Haiti and the U.S.
The Court rejected Edouard’s argument that he was unfairly denied the assistance of a Haitian Creole interpreter during trial. The Court cited portions of the transcript which undercut Edouard’s claim of a language barrier.
The Court also rejected the Batson challenge to the exclusion of certain jurors. The Court faulted the district court for summarily overruling Edouard’s Batson objections, but ultimately found no error in view of the prosecution’s forthcoming statement of his reasons for exercising his strikes.
The Court found no Rule 404(b) violation in the admission of evidence of drug-trafficking in years prior to the charged conspiracy. The Court found that this evidence properly established the defendant’s "intent." The Court also found no error in the admission of evidence that the defendant had threatened to kill a person if money was not returned to him. The Court found that this threat was an integral part of the money laundering charge.
The Court further rejected the argument that the case involved not a single, but multiple conspiracies. The Court noted the common goal of the conspiracy (drug-trafficking) and the overlap of participants.
The Court found sufficient evidence to sustain several specific money laundering counts, noting that separate transactions were part of the scheme, and each gave rise to a separate count.
Finally, the Court rejected the argument that the sentencing should have been postponed after new counsel was hired to represent Edouard, noting that the defendant waited two weeks after new counsel made an appearance before seeking a continuance. Further, this counsel’s untimely objections to the PSI were properly not considered, because he waited 20 days after substitution of counsel before filing them late.