In United States v. Daniels, No. 22-10408 (Jan. 24, 2024) (Jordan, Lagoa, Marcus), the Court affirmed Mr. Daniels’s convictions and sentence.

Mr. Daniels was convicted of ten counts of Hobbs Act robbery and sentenced to 180 months’ imprisonment.

On appeal, he first argued that the district court erred by rejecting his proposed jury instruction on eyewitness identifications, taken from the Third Circuit’s model instructions.  The Court disagreed, finding that the instructions given substantially covered Mr. Daniels’s proposed instruction on eyewitness identifications.

He next argued that cumulative evidentiary errors prejudiced his right to a fair trial.  Applying plain error review to the claims of evidentiary error, the Court disagreed.

He also argued that the jury lacked sufficient evidence to convict him under Count 7 of the superseding indictment.  First, he argued that no reasonable jury could find beyond a reasonable doubt that the robber in Count 7 threatened the victim with force or violence—a necessary condition for Hobbs Act robbery. Second, he argued that no reasonable jury could find, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he committed the robbery alleged in Count 7.  The Court rejected both arguments.

Finally, he argued that his sentence was substantively unreasonable because the district court accounted for Mr. Daniels’s Count 7 conviction.  The Court found this argument failed because it rested only on the assumption that there was insufficient evidence to convict him for the robbery alleged in Count 7.

Judge Jordan concurred in full, but wrote separately to urge the Eleventh Circuit Committee on Pattern Jury Instructions to revise the pattern instruction on identification to allow juries to consider, in appropriate cases, that the witness and the person identified are of different races.  He noted that the Eleventh Circuit’s pattern instruction on identification has not been substantively updated since 1985, almost 40 years ago.  In his view, it is time for the Court to take account of the abundant literature on cross-racial identification and revise its instruction on eyewitness identification to permit juries to consider, in appropriate cases, that the witness and the person identified were of different races.

***This was a tough argument, but our very own Sara Kane did a great job! The government intended on standing up and just resting on its briefing, but Judge Jordan had questions and serious concerns regarding the pattern instruction on identification, as noted by his thoughtful concurrence.***