118 F.3d 876 (1st Cir. 1997), 96-2123, United States v. Meader

Docket Nº96-2123.
Citation118 F.3d 876
Party NameUNITED STATES of America, Appellee, v. Kenneth Leon MEADER, Defendant, Appellant.
Case DateJuly 11, 1997
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

Page 876

118 F.3d 876 (1st Cir. 1997)

UNITED STATES of America, Appellee,

v.

Kenneth Leon MEADER, Defendant, Appellant.

No. 96-2123.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

July 11, 1997

Heard May 6, 1997.

Page 877

David M. Sanders, by Appointment of the Court, for appellant.

Margaret D. McGaughey, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Jay P. McCloskey, United States Attorney, and Gail F. Malone, Assistant United States Attorney, Bangor, ME, were on brief for appellee.

Before SELYA, Circuit Judge, COFFIN, Senior Circuit Judge, and LYNCH, Circuit Judge.

COFFIN, Senior Circuit Judge.

Appellant Kenneth Leon Meader was convicted on all three counts of an indictment

Page 878

charging him with distributing cocaine, using a firearm in connection with a drug trafficking crime, and being a felon-in-possession of a firearm. He essentially raises two claims on appeal, one involving possible juror bias and the other concerning his sentencing as a career criminal based on prior convictions for unlawful sexual contact and intercourse with a minor. After careful review, we affirm.

I. Factual Background

The facts of the crime are largely irrelevant to the issues we face on appeal, and we therefore do not recite them in any detail. It suffices to say that, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, the jury could have found that appellant abducted the mother of his young son at gunpoint from her parents' home, took her to the house they had shared, forced her to ingest cocaine and sleeping pills, and assaulted her sexually. He eventually released her, and surrendered to authorities.

The jury returned its guilty verdicts on March 27, 1996. On April 19, defense counsel advised the court that he had received information about a juror that suggested that she possibly was biased. A defense witness, Decato, had spoken with the juror's son, who reported that his mother had a history of abusive relationships and consequently was "dead set against" domestic abusers. The son also told Decato that once his mother made up her mind she would not change it.

Before trial, Meader had submitted six proposed voir dire questions, four of which pertained to domestic abuse. 1 The court reframed them into a single question:

There may be evidence in this case concerning a domestic relationship in which physical force or abuse was involved or threatened. Does any member of the panel have personal views or personal experiences that would prevent you from deciding this type of case fairly and impartially?

No juror responded.

In a conference with counsel following revelation of Decato's conversation, the district court identified two issues: did the juror prejudge the case, and did she answer the voir dire question falsely? Attempting to adhere to First Circuit authority strongly disfavoring direct contact with jurors, see United States v. Kepreos, 759 F.2d 961, 967 (1st Cir.1985), the court determined to hear testimony first from Decato, then from the juror's son, and, only if questions remained, from the juror. Further reflection by both court and counsel following Decato's testimony and a review of the voir dire transcript led, however, to a decision to hear directly from the juror rather than her son.

The juror, Sandra Petersen, was questioned by the court in an informal session. Both counsel were present and had submitted proposed questions, but they were asked to remain at the periphery of the proceeding "to maintain a certain level of informality." Juror Petersen acknowledged that she had been emotionally and verbally abused by an ex-husband, and that her son had been physically abused by the same man. She further acknowledged that she does not like abusers, but emphatically rejected her son's suggestion to Decato that she had her mind made up about the case before its conclusion. She responded to the court's question on that point as follows:

What? No way. No way. He--he must have fabricated that because no way. No, I--in fact, I told him that it would take awhile for me to--to come to the decision because it's a man's life is what I said. And that's the way I feel about any case. You know, I'm--I've got a man's life here in my hands. There's no way I--no.

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In response to her son's comment that "my mother doesn't change her mind once it's set," she explained that that was the way she handled him--"if I tell him this is it, that's all"--and that she viewed his statement as an attempt "to pump himself up, make himself look big" because his mother was a juror for the trial. Asked if her views had any impact on the trial, the juror replied:

I retarded everyone else in the deliberation because I had a life in my hand and I did not know, you know, if I should go along with everybody else. Everyone else was going towards guilty. I was not. Because I waited until, you know, I heard more about it and more evidence and, you know, we deliberated before I finally said yes.

When the court asked if her experiences with her ex-husband affected her attitude toward the trial, she answered:

It did in a way because I had to really think out the case and say, you know, is this--you know, is there abuse here or is it that this man has a--a mental problem ... I know a little bit about the psychic mind and how it works. And sometimes when you're under an awful lot of stress you will do things on the spur of the moment. But the other jurors made me see that this was premeditated, he thought it out before he--he actually did the crime.

Additionally, when asked specifically whether her experiences affected her fairness or impartiality, the juror replied: "I think I was very fair because I thought it all out.... I wouldn't make a judgment on someone unless I really thought something out. And I wouldn't let my own personal feelings interfere in any way." She repeated that sentiment when asked whether her personal views made her more or less sympathetic to either the government or the defense: "I went by what was on the table.... I put my own feelings aside."

Based on this inquiry, the court tentatively concluded that neither predisposition nor outside factors influenced the jury's verdict, but also asked for briefs from counsel. The court rejected defense counsel's request that the court also question the juror's son, noting the First Circuit's reluctance to probe into the jury process unless absolutely necessary.

On June 14, 1996, three weeks after the court's exchange with the juror, Meader moved for a mistrial. He claimed both that the court should have used his proposed voir dire questions, instead of the court's modification, and that additional investigation into juror bias was necessary.

The district court denied the motion in a thoughtful ten-page order, and we here provide only a summary of its contents. First, the court found no suggestion of prejudice, observing that the juror's answers--which the court found "logical and believable"--"reveal that, if anything, she gave this defendant the benefit of the doubt." On Meader's claim that his voir dire questions should have been asked, the court noted that no objection was raised to the questions actually posed and no requests for additional questions were made at the time of the voir dire. The claim therefore was waived. Responding to Meader's attack on the adequacy of the investigation into bias, the court noted the need to avoid undue intrusion into jurors' lives, and stated that testimony from the juror's son was unnecessary because the court had credited Decato's testimony about what the son told him, even though Decato had reason to testify so as to make a mistrial more likely.

The court sentenced Meader to 120 months in prison on Count One (felon-in-possession), to be served concurrently with a 360-month term on Count Two (distribution of cocaine). A 60-month consecutive term, as required by statute, would follow on Count Three (use of firearm in drug trafficking crime). The penalties reflected increases for various specific characteristics of the offenses, including the abduction of the victim, commission of criminal sexual abuse, and use of force and threats of death. The penalty also reflected Meader's status as a career offender, based on his having two prior convictions for drug or violent crimes.

On appeal, Meader challenges the district court's handling of the voir dire and the allegations of juror bias, both relating to the domestic abuse issue. He also claims that his prior convictions for statutory rape and unlawful sexual contact were not crimes of

Page 880

violence and thus should not have been used to classify him as a career offender.

II. Domestic Abuse: Voir Dire and Juror Bias

A. Voir Dire. We need not dwell on the district court's failure to ask verbatim Meader's proposed voir dire questions. The court had no obligation to ask the questions in the specific language proposed, see United States v. Victoria-Peguero, 920 F.2d 77, 84 (1st Cir.1990), and counsel's acquiescence in the court's reframed question means that any objection to that formulation was not preserved for appeal. See United States v. Walsh, 75 F.3d 1, 6 (1st Cir.1996) ("[T]he usual rule is that an objection must be made known at the time that the court is making its decision to act...."). Because the district court's inquiry--asking whether jurors could impartially judge a case involving domestic violence--directly focused on the critical concern of bias, we are persuaded beyond any doubt that no plain error occurred.

In so concluding, we offer no view of the substance of Meader's complaint. He contends that the court's voir dire question, allowing jurors who were exposed to domestic violence to reveal their experiences only if they felt such exposure would impact their jury service, deprived him of the ability to use his challenges effectively. Although this position has some force, we decline to...

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62 practice notes
  • 350 F.Supp.2d 275 (D.Me. 2004), CR-03-41, United States v. Cadieux
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 1st Circuit United States District Court (Maine)
    • December 22, 2004
    ...of violence" under the Sentencing Guidelines. 7 United States v. Sacko, 178 F.3d 1, 3 n. 1 (1st Cir.1999); United States v. Meader, 118 F.3d 876, 883 n. 8 (1st Cir.1997), cert. denied, 522 U.S. 1064, 118 S.Ct. 729, 139 L.Ed.2d 667 (1998); United States v. Winter, 22 F.3d 15, 18 n. 3 (1......
  • United States v. Morales, 011312 PAEDC, 2:08-cr-748-1
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 3th Circuit United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • January 13, 2012
    ...mature victims and do not contain aggravating factors are not subject to the strict categorical approach"); United States v. Meader , 118 F.3d 876 (1st Cir. 1997) (intercourse by a thirty-six-year-old with a thirteen-year-old is a crime of violence); United States v. McLaughlin, 2006 W......
  • 350 F.Supp.2d 275 (D.Me. 2004), CR-03-41, United States v. Cadieux
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 1st Circuit United States District Court (Maine)
    • December 22, 2004
    ...of violence" under the Sentencing Guidelines. 7 United States v. Sacko, 178 F.3d 1, 3 n. 1 (1st Cir.1999); United States v. Meader, 118 F.3d 876, 883 n. 8 (1st Cir.1997), cert. denied, 522 U.S. 1064, 118 S.Ct. 729, 139 L.Ed.2d 667 (1998); United States v. Winter, 22 F.3d 15, 18 n. 3 (1......
  • United States v. Morales, 011312 PAEDC, 2:08-cr-748-1
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 3th Circuit United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • January 13, 2012
    ...more mature victims and do not contain aggravating factors are not subject to the strict categorical approach”); United States v. Meader, 118 F.3d 876 (1st Cir. 1997) (intercourse by a thirty-six-year-old with a thirteen-year-old is a crime of violence); United States v. McLaughlin, 2006 WL......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
62 cases
  • 350 F.Supp.2d 275 (D.Me. 2004), CR-03-41, United States v. Cadieux
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 1st Circuit United States District Court (Maine)
    • December 22, 2004
    ...of violence" under the Sentencing Guidelines. 7 United States v. Sacko, 178 F.3d 1, 3 n. 1 (1st Cir.1999); United States v. Meader, 118 F.3d 876, 883 n. 8 (1st Cir.1997), cert. denied, 522 U.S. 1064, 118 S.Ct. 729, 139 L.Ed.2d 667 (1998); United States v. Winter, 22 F.3d 15, 18 n. 3 (1......
  • United States v. Morales, 011312 PAEDC, 2:08-cr-748-1
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 3th Circuit United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • January 13, 2012
    ...mature victims and do not contain aggravating factors are not subject to the strict categorical approach"); United States v. Meader , 118 F.3d 876 (1st Cir. 1997) (intercourse by a thirty-six-year-old with a thirteen-year-old is a crime of violence); United States v. McLaughlin, 2006 W......
  • 350 F.Supp.2d 275 (D.Me. 2004), CR-03-41, United States v. Cadieux
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 1st Circuit United States District Court (Maine)
    • December 22, 2004
    ...of violence" under the Sentencing Guidelines. 7 United States v. Sacko, 178 F.3d 1, 3 n. 1 (1st Cir.1999); United States v. Meader, 118 F.3d 876, 883 n. 8 (1st Cir.1997), cert. denied, 522 U.S. 1064, 118 S.Ct. 729, 139 L.Ed.2d 667 (1998); United States v. Winter, 22 F.3d 15, 18 n. 3 (1......
  • United States v. Morales, 011312 PAEDC, 2:08-cr-748-1
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 3th Circuit United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • January 13, 2012
    ...more mature victims and do not contain aggravating factors are not subject to the strict categorical approach”); United States v. Meader, 118 F.3d 876 (1st Cir. 1997) (intercourse by a thirty-six-year-old with a thirteen-year-old is a crime of violence); United States v. McLaughlin, 2006 WL......
  • Request a trial to view additional results