Brief Fact Summary. The defendant, Jacqueline Panseta Brown (the “defendant”), was charged with importing cocaine base and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. The cocaine base was found by United States Customs officers in the defendant’s luggage cart frames. It was found at the time she was traveling to Bermuda via Miami from Jamaica.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Federal Rule of Evidence (“F.R.E.”) Rule 703 allows experts to rely on data which would not have been admissible if the date is reasonably relied on by experts in their field.
The defendant was traveling to Bermuda via Miami when United States Customs officers found cocaine base in the frames of her luggage carts. Cocaine is derived from cocaine base. The defendant denied knowledge of the drugs, but she was indicted for the importation of five hundred grams or more of a substance containing cocaine, and possession with intent to distribute. The defendant sought to substitute her appointed counsel for her own attorney, David Rowe (“Mr. Rowe”). Mr. Rowe was substituted as counsel, but filed a motion to withdraw seven weeks later. This motion was denied and the defendant went to trial represented by Mr. Rowe. The government moved, prior to trial, to exclude any evidence or argument from the defendant, a black Jamaican national, that she was targeted by United States customs because of her race. The trial court deferred ruling on this issue. The government used its first two peremptory strikes against African-Americans, and defense objected based
on Batson. The trial court found that the government offered credible reasons unrelated to race as to why they were struck. The government used a third strike against an African American, and after the defendant objected, offered that the juror had been on a prior jury panel that was unable to reach a verdict.
The prosecution relied on the testimony of a Drug Enforcement Agency (“DEA”) agent to establish the defendant’s knowledge of the presence of cocaine in her luggage carts. The DEA agent was offered as an expert in the field of drug evaluation. The agent testified that the wholesale value of the cocaine base in the defendant’s possession was approximately $217,000. The government argued that an innocent, unknowing witness would not have been trusted with such value. The defendant attempted to contradict the estimated value with a copy of a written DEA price list referred to by the expert, but was not allowed to. The defendant was convicted on both counts and sentenced to sixty-three months.
Issue. Did the trial court err in finding the race-neutral reasons offered by the government for the peremptory strikes were credible?
Did the trial court improperly exclude the DEA drug price list offered by Defendant?
Held. Circuit Judge Kravitch issued the opinion for the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals and found that the trial court did not err in holding the government’s race-neutral explanations credible in regards to the peremptory strikes.
The trial court did not err in excluding the price list.
Concurrence. Circuit Judge Hill issued a concurring opinion to note that he is troubled that the defendant went to trial with a lawyer she did not prefer.
Discussion. The price list was not relied on by the DEA agent in forming his opinion, and it made no reference to drug prices in Bermuda, which was the defendant’s destination, or Jamaica, from where she originated. The list did not reference prices for cocaine base in any market.