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United States v. Casanova

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

March 26, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Appellee,
v.
JAQUAN CASANOVA, a/k/a Cass, a/k/a Joffy, a/k/a Joffy Joe, Defendant, Appellant.

          APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS Hon. Denise J. Casper, U.S. District Judge

          Chauncey B. Wood, with whom Eva Jellison, Meredith Shih, and Wood & Nathanson, LLP were on brief, for appellant.

          Randall E. Kromm, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom William D. Weinreb, Acting United States Attorney, was on brief, for appellee.

          Before Lynch, Stahl, and Kayatta, Circuit Judges.

          LYNCH, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         After an eight-day jury trial, Jaquan Casanova was convicted of tampering with a witness (Darian Thomson) by attempting to kill him (and almost succeeding), in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(a)(1)(C), and of making false statements to a federal agent, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001.

         On appeal, Casanova asks this court to reverse his conviction and raises three unpreserved claims of error, described below. We affirm. We reiterate that criminal defendants do not ordinarily have a right to individual voir dire of every prospective juror as to potential racial bias, whether in lieu of or in addition to group voir dire. See United States v. Parker, 872 F.3d 1, 8 (1st Cir. 2017). Here, the district court individually questioned at sidebar any prospective juror who had expressed racial bias during group voir dire. There was no plain error.

         I.

         We recount the relevant facts "in the light most favorable to the verdict." United States v. Van Horn, 277 F.3d 48, 50 (1st Cir. 2002) (citing United States v. Escobar-de Jesus, 187 F.3d 148, 157 (1st Cir. 1999)). On the evening of April 30, 2013, Boston police officers investigating a report of a gunshot in Dorchester, Massachusetts found a man later identified as Darian Thomson in the driver's seat of a parked car, bleeding from a head wound.[1] The individual who had alerted the authorities, Shaqukurra Thomas, reported that she had been in the passenger's seat when Thomson was shot. In an interview with investigators later that evening, and again at Casanova's trial, Thomas recounted the events leading up to the attack. Her account at trial was supplemented by the testimony of two other witnesses: Anthony Harris and Jacquelyn Lungelow.

         On the afternoon of April 30, Thomas met with Thomson, whom she had first met a few days earlier. After driving around Dorchester and Mattapan for a few hours, the two of them visited Raymond Jeffreys, purportedly Thomson's "friend[], " at Jeffreys's apartment in Roxbury. There, Thomson and Thomas briefly socialized with Jeffreys, Lungelow, Harris, and Casanova -- none of whom Thomas had previously met.

         Jeffreys led a multi-state sex-trafficking organization, a drug-dealing business, and a fraudulent check-cashing operation. Lungelow was a prostitute who worked for Jeffreys at the time. Harris was Jeffreys's childhood friend. Casanova was longtime friends with Harris and Jeffreys, occasionally sold drugs for Jeffreys, and had reportedly told Harris that he would "do anything for [Jeffreys]." As for Thomson, he ran a sex-trafficking operation of his own, but at times partnered with Jeffreys and shared information with him. Earlier in 2013, Jeffreys had told Harris and others that he suspected Thomson was a "rat, " i.e., a government informant, who was "snitching" on him.

         At Jeffreys's apartment, Harris saw Jeffreys and Casanova talking in the kitchen and observed Jeffreys pat his waist, raise his left arm, and make a shooting motion with his hand. Shortly thereafter, Jeffreys asked Thomson to take Harris to McDonald's. Thomson drove Thomas, Harris, and Casanova to a nearby McDonald's in Dorchester, and Harris went inside to order food. When Harris returned, Casanova stated that he wanted to "pick up something from his boy" and instructed Thomson to park the car at an intersection nearby. Casanova then got out of the car, shot Thomson through the driver's seat window, and fled from the scene with Harris.

         Thomas did not know, and was initially unable to identify, any of the individuals involved in the shooting other than the victim. On May 1, she was presented with a photo array that did not contain pictures of any of the defendants; she did not identify anyone in the array. That same day, Jeffreys was questioned by investigators and admitted that Thomson had visited his apartment on the afternoon of April 30th and had left with a woman and two men, but he claimed that he did not know their identities. The investigation continued.

         Nearly two years later, the police presented Thomas with a second photo array. Thomas stated that one of the photographs, depicting Casanova, looked somewhat like the shooter, but she expressed doubt because she recalled the shooter as having a tattoo on his neck whereas Casanova's picture did not show any tattoo. When Casanova was interviewed by law enforcement in January 2015, "he denied knowing Jeffreys well, denied having seen Jeffreys since 2011, and denied knowing where Jeffreys lived in 2013."

         Investigators ultimately concluded that Casanova was the shooter and that Harris was the man who had accompanied him in the back seat of Thomson's car. Security footage from the McDonald's to which Thomson had driven on the night of the shooting showed a man matching Thomas's description entering the restaurant and interacting with an employee. That employee identified Harris as the man in the surveillance video. Harris, testifying at trial pursuant to an immunity agreement, in turn identified Casanova as the individual who had traveled to the McDonald's with him, Thomson, and Thomas, and as the individual who later shot Thomson. Lungelow corroborated Harris's account, testifying that Jeffreys had told her on the evening of April 30th that Casanova and Harris had "handled the situation" by shooting Thomson because he was "ratting." Finally, forensic investigators analyzed prints collected from certain items recovered from the inside of Thomson's car the day after the shooting, and determined that some belonged to Harris and one belonged to Casanova.

         On April 16, 2015 a grand jury returned a twenty-five count third superseding indictment charging Casanova, Jeffreys, and Corey Norris (a friend and associate of Jeffreys) with multiple crimes. Norris and Jeffreys faced various counts of sex trafficking and related offenses. The indictment charged Casanova and Jeffreys with tampering with a witness by attempting to kill Thomson, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(a)(1)(C), and conspiracy to engage in the same, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(k), and charged Casanova with making false statements to a federal agent regarding his ...


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