285 F.3d 1133 (9th Cir. 2001), 00-10477, United States v. Parks

Docket Nº:00-10477
Citation:285 F.3d 1133
Case Date:September 10, 2001
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

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285 F.3d 1133 (9th Cir. 2001)




No. 00-10477

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

September 10, 2001

Argued and Submitted September 10, 2001--San Francisco, California

--San Francisco, California

April 3, 2002

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Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Nevada Kent J. Dawson, District Judge, Presiding D.C. No. CR-98-00309-KJD

Counsel Terrence A. Roden, Los Angeles, California, for the defendant-appellant. Steven W. Myhre, Las Vegas, Nevada, for the plaintiff-appellee.

Before: Henry A. Politz,1 William A. Fletcher, and Raymond C. Fisher, Circuit Judges.


Politz, Circuit Judge

Vincent Parks appeals his conviction on four counts arising from a 1998 bank robbery in Las Vegas, Nevada. After a close review of the record, consideration of the oral arguments of counsel, and examination of applicable and controlling law, we affirm.


Parks and co-defendant Hakim Williams entered a Wells Fargo bank in Las Vegas, Nevada. Williams stood lookout while Parks, brandishing a 9mm handgun, forced one of the bank tellers to fill a pillowcase with money. The teller placed more than $72,000 in cash along with two electronic"B-packs" and 36 marked "bait bills" into the bag. The men then left the bank in a white, late model car that witnesses described as a Lincoln or Mercury. The vehicle was driven by Ellis Clark. A short distance away, the men transferred to a blue car and quickly exited the scene.

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FBI agents tracked the men to an apartment by tracing signals from the electronic "B-packs." Las Vegas police officers located a blue Ford Taurus, matching the description of the second getaway car, in front of the apartment. The officers saw a bulletproof vest in plain view inside the vehicle and they performed an initial search to determine whether the auto was the source of the electronic signal. The officers called the Las Vegas SWAT team to the scene. The SWAT officers surrounded the apartment from which it was determined that the signal was being emitted. Four men, a child, and a woman were found therein. A search of the apartment disclosed a pillow case containing the two B-packs, 36 bait bills, more than $72,000 in cash, a loaded 9mm semiautomatic pistol, additional 9mm magazines, and a face-mask like that worn by the bank robbers. Parks' fingerprints were found on one of the 9mm magazines.

Officers obtained a warrant to search the Taurus and found a sawed-off 12-gauge shotgun, a 7.62 SKS rifle, black clothing and boots, a bulletproof vest, personal papers and identification belonging to Parks and Williams, and a rental agreement naming Williams as renter and Parks as an additional authorized driver.

Officers found a white Lincoln Towncar, matching the description of the first getaway car, a few blocks from the bank. They impounded it at the FBI impound lot, obtained a search warrant, and searched the vehicle. The search revealed a rental agreement naming a third party as renter, and Parks' fingerprint and palm print were found on the folder containing the rental agreement.

The government charged Parks, along with Clark and Williams, with conspiracy to commit armed bank robbery, armed bank robbery and aiding and abetting the same, and use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence and aiding and abetting the same.2 The indictment additionally charged Parks individually with being a felon in possession of a firearm. The government filed an information notifying the court and the three defendants of its intent to seek a mandatory life sentence under 18 U.S.C. § 3559.

Subsequent to his arrest, Williams gave a written confession, admitting to the robbery and stating that Parks was the individual who collected the money inside the bank. The statement, redacted by blotting out those portions inculpatory to Parks with a black pen, was read aloud to the jury at a joint trial and admitted into evidence. The trial judge instructed the jury that it could consider Williams' statement only in regard to Williams' guilt.

Prior to trial, the state announced its intent to call Torrance Police Department Detective Petersen as a witness to connect Parks to the Lincoln. Parks objected on the grounds that the testimony would involve other investigations in other robberies. The court denied the objection, but limited the scope of Petersen's testimony to connecting Parks to the Lincoln. The prosecution called Petersen as a witness, and after establishing that Petersen was a detective and was assigned to perform surveillance on the Lincoln, the prosecutor asked what type of surveillance he had been performing in relation to Parks and the vehicle. Petersen responded that it was robbery surveillance. Parks objected and moved for a mistrial. His motion for mistrial was denied, but the jury was admonished to disregard Petersen's answer.

The jury convicted all three defendants on all counts charged in the indictment. After Parks' conviction, his counsel learned of Parks' alleged plan to take him hostage Page 1138

during a prison visit. Counsel promptly filed a motion to be relieved as attorney of record. The motion was granted and, due to this and other rescheduling problems, Parks' sentencing hearing was continued until sixteen months after his conviction. Parks eventually was sentenced to: (a) 60 months on count one, concurrent; (b) life on count two;3 (b) 60 months on count three, consecutive; and (d) 120 months on count five, concurrent.


The Introduction of Williams' Partially Redacted Statement:

Parks complains that the introduction of Williams' partially redacted statement at their joint trial violated his sixth amendment right of confrontation. We generally review evidentiary rulings for abuse of discretion.4 We review alleged violations of the confrontation clause de novo5 under a harmless beyond a reasonable doubt standard.6

"[A] defendant is deprived of his Sixth Amendment right of confrontation when the facially incriminating confession of a non-testifying co-defendant is introduced at their joint trial, even if the jury is instructed to consider the confession only against the co-defendant."7 Under the rule of Bruton v. United States,8 however, no Confrontation Clause violation occurs when "the confession is redacted to eliminate not only the defendant's name, but any reference to his or her existence."9 The Supreme Court recently clarified the Bruton rule in Gray v. Maryland,10 holding that the redacted confession must not reference the co-defendant by implication, such as by"replac[ing] a name with an obvious blank space or symbol or word such as `deleted.' "11

The final version of Williams' redacted statement was not settled until the day of testimony. When the government offered the statement Parks objected and unsuccessfully requested that the statement be retyped, so that the jury would be unable to see the black lines that covered the redacted portions. The redacted version of Williams' statement, introduced as Government Exhibit 67, reads as follows:

I, Hakim Mohammed Williams, have been advised of my rights and make this voluntary statement of my own free will. I came over from Pomona, CA sometime yesterday with Vincent Parks. I rented a blue ford Torino to drive over. Ellis Clark was driving the car this morning with Vince and I. There were guns in the car, in a bag which belonged to Vince. Sometime in the morning after we left Ellis's mother's house, Vince and Ellis started talking about getting some money. I assumed they were joking about robbing a bank. I tried to weasel out of doing it about four or five times, but they kept talking about it and Ellis kept driving. We eventually came up to Page 1139

a Wells Fargo Bank. Vince told me to put on a mask and go along with it. I told him I didn't...

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