United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division
W. FLANAGAN United States District Court Judge
matter is before the court on defendant's motion to sever
trial pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 14(a).
(DE 116). The government filed a response in opposition to
defendant's motion to sever trial. Accordingly the issues
raised are ripe for ruling. For the reasons that follow, the
court denies defendant's motion to sever trial.
along with six other co-defendants, was charged in an
eighteen-count indictment returned by a grand jury in the
Eastern District of North Carolina on November 7, 2017. The
indictment charged defendant, and all other co-defendants,
with one count of conspiracy to commit fraud against
financial institutions. Defendant was also charged with five
counts of financial institution fraud, which were committed
in furtherance of the conspiracy.
filed the instant motion to sever on March 26, 2018,
asserting that “[d]ue to the lack of connection between
Mr. Bratton and the other defendants and the alleged conduct
pertaining to each, Mr. Bratton would suffer undue prejudice
should this motion be denied” and that “other
than the coincidence that each of the defendants was
allegedly involved in overt acts to defraud financial
institutions, there is no significant overlap in the evidence
that the government would offer to prove the charges against
Mr. Bratton and that which would be present against other
defendants.” (DE 116 at 1, 6). The government argues in
opposition that 1) joinder was proper in that even though
defendant and co-defendant Brown, who are named in the
indictment together, did not have direct interaction with
each other, they “did participate in a continuing
enterprise organized by co-defendants Wilson and
Gibbs”; 2) severance would waste judicial resources due
to the significant overlap of evidence in that charges
against defendant and co-defendant Brown arose from the same
investigation and testimony provided by the investigating
agent with apply to both defendants; and 3) defendant has not
met his burden to show prejudice from denial of severance.
of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure provides in part:
“If the joinder of offenses or defendants in an
indictment, an information, or a consolidation for trial
appears to prejudice a defendant or the government, the court
may order separate trials of counts, sever the
defendants' trials, or provide any other relief that
justice requires.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 14(a). The standard
for evaluating a motion to sever is whether there exists
“a serious risk that a joint trial would compromise a
specific trial right of one of the defendants or prevent the
jury from making a reliable judgment about guilt or
innocence.” Id. at 534. Determination of the
risk of prejudice is left to the sound discretion of the
district court. Zafiro v. United States, 506 U.S.
534, 540-41 (1993).
Fourth Circuit follows the “well-established principle
that defendants who are charged in the same criminal
conspiracy should be tried together, ” and
“[j]oint trials are favored in those cases in which
defendants have been indicted together for the sake of
judicial economy.” United States v. Reavis, 48
F.3d 763, 767 (4th Cir. 1995). A defendant seeking relief
under Rule 14(a) “has the burden of demonstrating a
strong showing of prejudice.” United States v.
Goldman, 750 F.2d 1221, 1225 (4th Cir. 1984). Even then,
“[t]he mere showing of prejudice is not enough to
require severance.” United States v. Hayden,
85 F.3d 153, 160 (4th Cir. 1996). “Although limiting
instructions often will suffice to cure any risk of prejudice
as a result of the joint trial, in some situations the risk
of prejudice is so high as to require a separate
trial.” United States v. Min, 704 F.3d 314,
319 (4th Cir. 2013).
defendant has failed to meet his burden to demonstrate that
joint trial would result in risk of prejudice incurable by
limiting instruction. Defendant argues only that evidence
presented unrelated to defendant's charges would
prejudice defendant and that “it will be difficult for
a jury to separate the conduct alleged to have been committed
by Mr. Bratton from that of other defendants, ”
resulting in “an unnecessary danger that the jury might
become confused and will place a tremendous burden on the
jury to attempt to recall and segregate what was alleged as
to each defendant.” (DE 116 at 5-6). However,
defendant's speculation on this point is insufficient to
demonstrate that joinder of the two counts “would
prevent the jury from making a reliable judgment about guilt
or innocence” or that a limiting instruction would fail
to cure any risk of prejudice resulting from the joint trial.
Min, 704 F.3d at 319.
on the foregoing, defendant's motion to sever ...