In United States v. Lewis, No. 20-12997 (July 14, 2022) (Grant, Luck, Hull), the Court affirmed the defendant’s drug convictions.
First, the Court upheld the denial of a motion to suppress. The argued that collateral estoppel prevented the federal government from re-litigating the legality of the traffic stop, which was already decided in state court. The Court assumed, without deciding, that collateral estoppel applied to successive criminal prosecutions by different sovereigns, but held that it would not apply here because the defendant failed to establish privity between the state and federal authorities. There was no evidence that the state was acting as a tool of, or were controlled by, federal prosecutors.
Second, the Court rejected the defendant’s arguments pertaining to jury selection. It found no abuse of discretion in dismissing a juror for cause where the juror could not sit in judgment due to moral beliefs. Unlike the religious juror in the en banc decision in Brown, the juror here never confirmed the ability to follow the law and the court’s instructions, and, unlike in Brown, the juror here was not already seated. In addition, the Court found no clear error in the district court’s finding of discriminatory intent under Batson as to one of the defendant’s peremptory strikes, and that decision was harmless in any event because the defendant did not claim that the juror was unqualified to sit and he did not renew his challenge when given the chance.
Third, the Court upheld the district court’s exclusion of evidence about why the state court proceeding against the defendant was terminated, including the state court’s order finding the federal government’s main witness to be not credible. Although the district court excluded the evidence as irrelevant, the Eleventh Circuit did not decide whether it was because it was harmless, as there was other overwhelming evidence of guilt. For the same reason, the Court found no plain error with respect to the defendant’s argument that the exclusion deprived him of his right to present a complete defense.