441 F.3d 1330 (11th Cir. 2006), 04-10325, United States v. Brown

Docket Nº:04-10325.
Citation:441 F.3d 1330
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Meier Jason BROWN, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:March 13, 2006
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
 
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441 F.3d 1330 (11th Cir. 2006)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Meier Jason BROWN, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 04-10325.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

March 13, 2006

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Donald F. Samuel (Court-Appointed), Garland, Samuel & Loeb, P.C., Jeffrey Lyn Ertel (Court-Appointed), Fed. Def. Program, Inc., Atlanta, GA, for Brown.

Amy Lee Copeland, Savannah, GA, for U.S.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia D. C. Docket No. 03-00001-CR-4

Before DUBINA, BARKETT and MARCUS, Circuit Judges.

MARCUS, Circuit Judge:

In this capital case, Meier Jason Brown appeals his conviction and death sentence imposed by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia. A jury found him guilty of 1) murder within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1111; 2) murder of a federal employee (a postal worker), in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1114; and 3) robbery of federal property ($1175 in postal money orders), in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2114. The jury recommended that Brown should be sentenced to die for the murder convictions; and the district judge imposed a death sentence, along with 300 months in prison for the robbery.

Brown timely appealed, arguing that the district court made evidentiary and constitutional errors, inappropriately conducted voir dire, and violated both Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963) and Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966). 1] After thorough review, we affirm.

I.

The facts of this tragic case are straightforward and are taken from the testimony

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of the trial witnesses and from the last of Brown's three confessions, which was recorded and presented to the jury by audiotape.

The victim, Sallie Gaglia, was a part-time postmistress in the small town of Fleming, Georgia. She was working in the Fleming Post Office on the morning of November 30, 2002, when she was stabbed to death. One of her co-workers, Darlene Marie Washington, was working in the Post Office with Gaglia between 8:00 a.m. and about 9:30 or 9:45 a.m. that day. During that time, a black male came into the Post Office to retrieve mail from box 327, which Washington knew belonged to the Morgan and Brown families. According to Washington, Gaglia asked the man his name, and he gave three replies that neither woman could understand, although Washington believes he uttered a name that began with the letter "M." As he was exiting the Post Office, Washington heard the man say his name was "Jason." Washington did not get a good look at him and could offer nothing more in the way of a description than his sex and skin color. Washington left the Post Office before Gaglia was killed.

Jennifer Zech and Stephen Nichols discovered Gaglia's body when they stopped in the Post Office to get their mail sometime around 10:45 a.m. on November 30th. When they found her, Gaglia was lying on the floor behind the customer counter in the Post Office with what appeared to be a blood stain on her back. Gaglia did not respond to Nichols' shouts, so he jumped through the customer service window and again tried to elicit a response. Nichols opened the door leading into the customer waiting area so medical responders would have access to the victim.

While Nichols was in the Post Office, Zech ran to a nearby house and asked the owners to call 911. Linda Ashcraft, a volunteer firefighter who lived nearby, testified that a man came to her house and told her that someone at the Post Office needed help. Ashcraft and her husband, who was also a first responder and firefighter, responded to the Post Office and performed CPR on Gaglia. When they found Gaglia, she was lying face down with "a lot" of visible blood. Ashcraft noticed two holes in the back of Gaglia's sweater and knife wounds in Gaglia's back. EMS personnel arrived shortly thereafter and declared Gaglia dead.

Although there were no actual eyewitnesses to the stabbing, several people testified to seeing a person fitting Brown's description at the Post Office around the time the crime occurred. Among others, Frank Kania said that he stopped by the Post Office to pick up his mail around 10:25 or 10:30 a.m., had a brief conversation with Gaglia, and returned to his truck, where he sat for one or two minutes while he looked through his mail. Kania said that while he was sitting in his truck, he noticed a black male on a bicycle riding toward the Post Office. The bicyclist wore a hooded sweatshirt. Kania drove off before the suspect arrived at the Post Office, but as he was driving away, he observed through his rear-view mirror that the black male got off his bike and walked into

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the Post Office. Several days later, Kania selected Brown from a photo line-up given to him by investigators, noting that Brown had "the closest resemblance" to the man he saw on the bike.

Chris Bowen testified that he too drove by the Fleming Post Office around 10:30 or 10:35 a.m. on November 30th. He saw a slender black male, approximately 5'10" to 6' tall, dressed in a dark, hooded jogging suit, sitting on a bicycle in front of the Post Office door. The man caught Bowen's eye because he was wearing white gloves on a day that was not "all that cold." Bowen, who was driving about ten miles per hour, made eye contact with the suspect, but did not stop at the Post Office. Like Kania, Bowen later selected Brown from a photo lineup, noting that although he was not one hundred percent sure, he thought Brown was the man he saw at the Post Office that fateful morning.

Postal inspectors performed an accountability study at the Fleming Post Office the day Gaglia was murdered. They determined that $1,266.59 in cash was missing from the till and that four money orders had been issued in the amounts of $20, $500, $500, and $175.2 The cash drawer contained approximately $103.91.

At trial, the government introduced numerous crime-scene photographs depicting the location and position of Gaglia's body and blood stains found in the Post Office. The government also offered a receipt tape recovered from the Post Office calculator showing the numbers 500, plus .90, plus 500, plus .90, and then the number 175 with a division sign. A postal employee explained that the cost of purchasing money orders up to $500 was $.90, thus suggesting that someone in the Post Office calculated the amount due for the purchase of three money orders with denominations of $500, $500, and $175. Moreover, the government introduced the picture of a shoe print recovered from the top of the customer service counter that separated the public portion of the Post Office from the employee work area where Gaglia's body was found. No fingerprints were found in the Post Office.

The Deputy Chief Medical Examiner for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation performed an autopsy on Gaglia. He testified that the victim had been stabbed ten times, two of which could have caused Gaglia to die within a short period of time. The doctor further noted that two of the non-fatal wounds were to the victim's extremities: a half-inch laceration on the anterior surface of her left forearm and a three-quarter inch stab wound on the back of her left wrist. He explained that when an individual receives multiple stab wounds, cuts found on the extremities are classically described as "defensive" types of injuries.

On December 5, 2002, police conducted simultaneous searches at the homes of Sadie Brown (Brown's mother) and Diane Brown.3 Although armed with search warrants issued by a magistrate, the officers received consent to search from both Sadie and Diane. At Sadie's house, police

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recovered a brown "cargo or field type" jacket and the bike that Brown allegedly used to transport himself to and from the Post Office. Notably, the police found blood stains on the jacket, and a DNA analyst testified that the DNA profile of those samples matched the DNA profile of Sallie Gaglia's blood. He further stated that the probability of randomly selecting an unrelated individual with the same DNA profile is one in 25 quadrillion4 from the Caucasian population and one in 100 quadrillion from the African-American population, leading him to conclude that "within a reasonable degree of scientific certainty, Sallie Gagila [sic] is the source of the major component profile obtained from the . . . jacket." Dietrechusn Davis, the defendant's cousin, testified that on the morning of November 30, he remembered seeing Brown wearing the brown jacket investigators later recovered from Sadie's house.

At Diane's house, the police found a pair of Lugz sneakers with a tread that, according to a forensic scientist who testified at trial, "was similar in size and geometry" to the tread design of the shoe print left at the crime scene in the Post Office. Additionally, the police found three money order receipts at Diane's house, one in the amount of $500 made payable to Chase Manhattan Mortgage, one in the amount of $423.08 made payable to Chase Manhattan, and one in the amount of $175 made payable to Diane's bankruptcy trustee.

Dietrechusn Davis also testified that he was in Sadie's home on the night of December 5, 2002, when Sadie received a phone call. Davis, who heard only Sadie's portion of the conversation, heard her say "Meier, where you at? Meier, you didn't kill that lady, no." At that time, Sadie started crying, and Davis left the room.

The...

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