In United States v. Anderson, No. 18-13947 (June 15, 2021) (Wilson, Branch, Julie Carnes), the Court affirmed the defendant’s mail fraud, false statements, and money laundering convictions.
First, the Court held that the district court did not err by asking the defendant whether he knew that he had a right to testify and whether he wished to do so or waive the right. Although not required, the court’s straightforward and neutral inquiry did not violate his right to testify. Nor did it render his counsel ineffective by asking what choice the defendant had made. The colloquy, which did not probe questions of strategy or suggest the court’s own preference, vindicated rather than violated his constitutional rights.
Second, the district court did not abuse its discretion by failing to give a requested instruction on a particular statute that he was not charged with violating. Failure to give the instruction did not impair the defense, and the defendant was otherwise free to pursue his defenses without impediment.
Third, the Court found no reversible error under Rule 30(b) where the district court amended an erroneous draft jury instruction for mail fraud after the defendant’s closing argument. The Court found no unfair prejudice, as the instructional issue had nothing to do with the theory of defense or any critical strategic decisions relating to closing argument. Nor was reversal required by the court’s failure to give a curative instruction to a brief comment by the prosecutor suggesting that defense counsel had been misleading in closing.
Finally, the district court did not plainly err by giving a modified Allen charge similar to the pattern instruction. The instruction was not impermissibly coercive because the deviation from the pattern, which had been upheld previously, consisted of only minor word changes.