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United States v. Robinson

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

April 23, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Plaintiff,
v.
D-16 JAMES ROBINSON, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTIONS IN LIMINE [ECF Nos. 1367, 1369, 1370, 1376]

          GEORGE CARAM STEEH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the court on four motions in limine filed by defendant James Robinson. The court heard oral argument on the motions on April 18, 2019.

         I. Motion to Strike Surplusage and Prejudicial Information

         Defendant moves to strike non-essential allegations and counts from the Indictment before it is read to the jury, arguing they are not relevant and are prejudicial. Specifically, defendant seeks to strike the paragraphs and counts that pertain to co-defendants and do not name him.

         The government states that it will not ask the court to read the indictment to the jury. Because the jury will not hear the precise charging language of those counts in which Robinson is not named, or the death penalty special findings, defendant's motion to strike surplusage is moot.

         Defendant's motion in limine to strike surplusage is DENIED as moot.

         II. Motion to Preclude Recalling Agent Ruiz

         Defendant Robinson previously joined in a motion filed by co-defendant Corey Bailey to preclude Special Agent Ruiz from being recalled as a witness. (Doc. 959, 964) The court denied the motion and permitted Ruiz to testify multiple times in the second trial of co-defendants held June to August 2018. (Doc. 1018) Robinson's counsel agrees that his client is bound by the ruling but brings this motion to preclude Ruiz from narrating the case. In the new motion, defendant argues the same grounds previously considered and rejected by the court.

         Defendant argues the repeated appearance of Ruiz bolsters his credibility with the jury and enhances his status. Defendant cites to Judge Hood's opinion in United States v. Hamilton, No. 16-20062, where the court was not “persuaded that granting the Government the right to recall witnesses to give testimony episodically or via installments is warranted or appropriate in the instant case.” Judge Hood held that the jurors could take notes to recall the witness's testimony; that there was a danger that a witness who frequents the witness stand will become unfairly credible, reliable, or familiar; and that it was a needless waste of time.

         This court finds that having Special Agent Ruiz testify multiple times aids the jury by allowing the government to present evidence in an orderly manner. This RICO conspiracy case spans more than a decade and involves dozens of events. The court's prior experience in the trials of co-defendants demonstrates that the government's evidence was not unreasonably redundant or wasteful. Rather, allowing the government to recall the case agent at different times throughout the prior two trials proved to be an efficient way to present evidence to the jury in a manner that provided context for various incidents and in a format that the jurors could more easily understand.

         Defendant's motion in limine to preclude recalling Agent Ruiz throughout trial is DENIED.

         III. Motion to Preclude Evidence Regarding a Raid on Manning St.

         Defendant moves to preclude any evidence relative to the search warrant executed at 14781 and 14791 Manning Street on May 31, 2006 (Overt Act 98). At oral argument defense counsel amended his motion to also include all evidence relative to the search of 14791 Manning on December 4, 2006, at which search defendant was not present (Overt Act 96). According to defendant, with regard to the May 31 search, no one was arrested or charged with any criminal conduct. Defendant contends that he was merely present at the scene when the raid was executed and he received a ticket for loitering. No laboratory reports for any alleged controlled substances seized have been produced. Therefore, defendant argues the evidence seized, as well as the search warrant and raid, are irrelevant and prejudicial to his right to a fair trial.

         The government explains that the circumstances of the May 31, 2006 “raid”, including who was present and what was recovered, are relevant evidence in this trial. The fact that Robinson was found at a house on Manning Street, in the Red Zone, with two charged co-defendants and others, with suspected drugs, is relevant evidence bearing on all five elements of the charged RICO conspiracy: (1) the existence of the SMB enterprise, (2) Robinson's association with the SMB enterprise, (3) his agreement to participate in the conduct of the affairs of the enterprise, (4) his agreement that he or a conspirator would participate in at least two acts of ...


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