352 F.2d 36 (6th Cir. 1965), 16078, United States v. Releford

Docket Nº:16078.
Citation:352 F.2d 36
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. James Lawrence RELEFORD, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:November 02, 1965
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

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352 F.2d 36 (6th Cir. 1965)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


James Lawrence RELEFORD, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 16078.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.

November 2, 1965

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John F. Dugger, Morristown, Tenn. (H. M. Bacon, Morristown, Tenn., on the Brief, Bacon & Dugger, Morristown, Tenn., of counsel), for appellant.

Ottis B. Meredith, Knoxville, Tenn. (J. H. Reddy, U.S. Atty., David E. Smith, Asst. U.S. Atty., Knoxville, Tenn., on the brief), for appellee.

Before MILLER and O'SULLIVAN, Circuit Judges, and MATHES, Senior District Judge. [a1]

O'SULLIVAN, Circuit Judge.

This is an appeal from a judgment entered upon a jury verdict finding defendant-appellant, James Lawrence Releford, guilty of passing three counterfeit $50.00 bills. (Atlanta Federal Reserve Notes) Appellant was indicted with his brother, Ralph Randy Releford and his cousin, Marion Eugene McClure. Count one of the indictment charged these three persons with conspiracy to violate Section 472 Title 18 U.S.C.A. 1 Counts two, three and four charged substantive offenses under the same statute, specifically that appellant on July 2, 1962, had passed counterfeit $50.00 bills, one at the Latimer Looney Chevrolet Company in Kingsport, Tennessee, one at Joe's Food

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Market in Rogersville, Tennessee and one at Stapleton's Super Market in Rogersville, Tennessee respectively. The remaining counts five through eighteen, charged that appellant's codefendants had, also on July 2, 1962, passed fourteen counterfeit $50.00 bills at various places, six in Rogersville and eight in Greenville, Tennessee. Appellant's codefendants entered pleas of guilty to the offenses charged. The entry of such pleas was not before the jury in the trial of appellant but, by stipulation, the government and appellant's counsel did advise the jury that said codefendants had passed the counterfeit bills at the times and places set forth in the indictment. This stipulation includes the statement that appellant 'does not admit that he knew at the time that Marion Eugene McClure and Ralph Randy Releford possessed or passed the said fifty dollar counterfeit notes.' Defendant did not testify and rested his case at the conclusion of the government's proofs.

The jury disagreed as to the conspiracy count but found appellant guilty of the substantive offenses charged in counts two, three and four. Concurrent sentences of eight years imprisonment were imposed under counts two and three and five years probation ordered under count four.

This appeal charges that there was not sufficient evidence to support the jury's finding of guilt and that the District Judge erred in the instructions given and in failing to give an instruction requested by defendant-appellant.

1. Sufficiency of evidence

It is familiar law that in testing the propriety of setting aside a jury's verdict of guilty on grounds of insufficient evidence we appraise the government's evidence and the legitimate inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the prosecution. Glasser v. United States, 315 U.S. 60, 80, 62 S.Ct. 457, 86 L.Ed. 680 (1942); United States v. Decker, 304 F.2d 702, 705 (C.A.6, 1962). There was abundant evidence to support the jury's verdict.

July 2, 1962 was a day of much commerce in fifty-dollar counterfeit bills in the cities of Kingsport, Rogersville and Greenville, Tennessee. Some seventeen successful transactions were accomplished on that day in the area described. Each of the notes bore the same serial number-- a circumstance peculiar to counterfeit bills. Defendant was positively identified as the person that cashed such notes at Latimer Looney Chevrolet Company, in Kingsport and at Joe's Food Market, in Rogersville. The identification of defendant as the man who passed one of the notes at Stapleton's Super Market, in Rogersville was less positive. Mary Stapleton, wife of the proprietor of Stapleton's, expressed her guarded belief that defendant, sitting in the court room, was the man who had given her a counterfeit fifty-dollar note to pay for a purchase of less than one dollar. She gave him the required change. Officers had shown her a picture of defendant and she agreed with them that he was the man she had dealt with. On cross-examination she agreed that she would not 'say for sure that's him.' On redirect she said 'It looks like him * * * it certainly looks like him.'

Although appellant did not testify, there was evidence that in an interview with Federal officers he had admitted passing three fifty-dollar notes one at Latimer Looney, one at Joe's Food Market and one at a place he was unable to recall. He stated that he had obtained the three notes from one Cecil Price at Danville, Virginia as part of a total payment of $200.00 for four cases of whiskey. Investigation at Danville, Virginia failed to locate such a person as Cecil Price described by appellant as a bootlegger. The record does not disclose whether the involved whiskey was moonshine or some special brand commanding such a substantial price. When the officers arrived at defendant's home to interview him he greeted them by saying that he had been expecting them. Defendant's mother, called by the government, testified that in the afternoon of July 2, she came home

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to find defendant sitting on her porch, and that while he was visiting with her, his codefendants arrived and shortly thereafter the three of them left in what could be inferred to be defendant's 1960 air conditioned Cadillac. In his interview with the government agents defendant said he did not know that the notes were counterfeit.

Appellant's charge of insufficient evidence rests primarily upon the wavering identification by Mrs. Stapleton and the lack of direct proof that defendant knew that the bills were counterfeit. We believe that the guarded identification of Mrs. Stapleton together with the balance of the government's proofs made a case for the jury in this regard. Butler v. United States, 317 F.2d 249 (C.A.8, 1963); Walker v. United States, 254 F.2d 509 (C.A.6, 1958). We likewise are of the opinion that the evidence was sufficient to support a finding of defendant's knowledge that he was dealing in counterfeit money. While proof of the passing of such notes does not by itself give rise to an inference of guilty knowledge Price v. United States, 70 F.2d 467, 468 (C.A.4, 1934); United States v. Litberg, 175 F.2d 20 (C.A.7, 1949), and guilty knowledge is an essential element of the charged crime, United States v. Carll, 105 U.S. 611, 26 L.Ed. 1135, 1136 (1882); Zottarelli v. U.S., 20 F.2d 795, 798 (C.A.6, 1927) cert. den. 275 U.S. 571, 48 S.Ct. 159, 72 L.Ed. 432...

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