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Name: United States v. Decoud
Case #: 04-50478
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 08/02/2006

The appellate court affirmed three defendants’ convictions, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding a necessity for a wiretap. The panel rejected defendant Decoud’s protestations against the search of a briefcase because he gave up any expectation of privacy by unequivocally disclaiming ownership. The court held that Decoud waived his challenge to the district court’s denial of his motion to sever his trial from that of defendants Trice and Israel; and that the severance argument, even if not waived, is not meritorious because there is no indication that the jury was unable to separately evaluate the case against each defendant. The district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to compel the identification of the confidential informant whose lack of knowledge as to Israel’s involvement in the charged conspiracy was undisputed, and whose testimony would have been of limited value to Israel. Based on the record, the district court did not abuse its discretion by declining to strike fingerprint-comparison testimony. Because substantial evidence supports the district court’s assessment that a juror, who asked to be excused because of her religious convictions, was unable to further deliberate and perform her duties as a member of the jury, the court found no error in her dismissal by the district court. The district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to hold a post-verdict hearing with the dismissed juror in light of a declaration by Israel and Trice’s sister that she had coincidentally run into the dismissed juror who implied that racial motivations factored into her desire to be excused from the jury and that she had been a holdout for acquittal. In so holding, the court explained that the sister’s declaration did not reflect evidence of racial bias against the defendants, and therefore was not exempt from Fed. R. Evid. 606(b)’s restriction on post-trial evidence. Even if the declaration were admissible under Rule 606(b), its speculative and vague nature precludes a finding that the district court abused its discretion in declining to hold an evidentiary hearing. Judge Ferguson dissented from the majority’s approval of the district court’s failure to hold an evidentiary hearing regarding whether racial bias infected the jury that sat in judgment of Israel and Trice.