616 F.3d 321 (4th Cir. 2010), 06-6, United States v. Lighty

Docket Nº:06-6, 09-6, 06-4069.
Citation:616 F.3d 321
Opinion Judge:HAMILTON, Senior Circuit Judge:
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Kenneth Jamal LIGHTY, a/k/a Goat, Defendant-Appellant. United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Kenneth Jamal Lighty, Defendant-Appellant. United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. James Everett Flood, III, a/k/a Junior, a/k/a Bug, a/k/a Junebug, Defendant-Appellant.
Attorney:Amanda Michelle Raines, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellant. Deborah A. Johnston, Office of the United States Attorney, Greenbelt, Maryland, for Appellee. Gary DiBianco, Donald P. Salzman, Washington, D.C.; Jeffrey B. O'Toole, Danya A. Dayson, O'Toole, Rothw...
Judge Panel:Before MOTZ and AGEE, Circuit Judges, and HAMILTON, Senior Circuit Judge. Senior Judge HAMILTON wrote the opinion, in which Judge MOTZ and Judge AGEE joined.
Case Date:August 11, 2010
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
 
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616 F.3d 321 (4th Cir. 2010)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Kenneth Jamal LIGHTY, a/k/a Goat, Defendant-Appellant.

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Kenneth Jamal Lighty, Defendant-Appellant.

United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

James Everett Flood, III, a/k/a Junior, a/k/a Bug, a/k/a Junebug, Defendant-Appellant.

Nos. 06-6, 09-6, 06-4069.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit.

August 11, 2010

Argued: May 13, 2010.

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(Nos. 06-6; 09-6)

ARGUED:

Amanda Michelle Raines, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellant.

Deborah A. Johnston, Office of the United States Attorney, Greenbelt, Maryland, for Appellee.

ON BRIEF:

Gary DiBianco, Donald P. Salzman, Washington, D.C.; Jeffrey B. O'Toole, Danya A. Dayson, O'Toole, Rothwell, Nassau & Steinbach, Washington, D.C., for Appellant.

Rod J. Rosenstein, United States Attorney, Baltimore, Maryland, Sandra Wilkinson, Assistant United States Attorney, Office of the United States Attorney, Greenbelt, Maryland, for Appellee.

(No. 06-4069)

ARGUED:

Michael Lawlor, Lawlor & Englert, LLC, Greenbelt, Maryland, for Appellant.

Deborah A. Johnston, Office of the United States Attorney, Greenbelt, Maryland, for Appellee.

ON BRIEF:

John M. McKenna, Brennan,

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Trainor, Billman & Bennett, LLP, Upper Marlboro, Maryland, for Appellant.

Rod J. Rosenstein, United States Attorney, Baltimore, Maryland, Sandra Wilkinson, Assistant United States Attorney, Office of the United States Attorney, Greenbelt, Maryland, for Appellee.

Before MOTZ and AGEE, Circuit Judges, and HAMILTON, Senior Circuit Judge.

Affirmed by published opinion.

Senior Judge HAMILTON wrote the opinion, in which Judge MOTZ and Judge AGEE joined.

OPINION

HAMILTON, Senior Circuit Judge:

Kenneth Jamal Lighty, James Everett Flood, III, and Lorenzo Anthony Wilson were charged in a five-count indictment by a federal grand jury sitting in the District of Maryland with kidnapping resulting in the death of Eric Hayes, and aiding and abetting the same, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1201(a) and 2, conspiracy to kidnap, and aiding and abetting the same, id. §§ 1201(c) and 2, and three counts of using a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, and aiding and abetting the same, id. §§ 924(c) and 2. With respect to Lighty only, the government sought the death penalty on the kidnapping resulting in death count, pursuant to the Federal Death Penalty Act (FDPA), id. §§ 3591-3598. Because Wilson made statements implicating Lighty and Flood, Wilson's case was severed and tried separately.

Following a jury trial, the jury found Lighty and Flood guilty on all counts. In his separate jury trial, Wilson was found guilty of conspiracy to kidnap and not guilty on the remaining counts. Lighty's case moved on to the sentencing phase, at the conclusion of which the jury imposed a death sentence on the kidnapping resulting in death count. Lighty received a concurrent life term on the conspiracy to kidnap count and a fifty-five year consecutive sentence on the remaining counts. Flood received a life sentence on the kidnapping resulting in death count and a sixty-five year consecutive sentence on the remaining counts. Wilson received a life sentence on his only count of conviction.

Lighty, Flood, and Wilson filed timely notices of appeal, raising numerous assignments of error. While the appeals were pending, both Lighty and Wilson filed motions for new trial. Lighty also moved for a new sentencing hearing. As a result, we held all three appeals in abeyance pending a decision of the district court on the motions for new trial, and Lighty's request for a new sentencing hearing. Following an evidentiary hearing, the district court denied the motions for new trial and Lighty's motion for a new sentencing hearing, and Lighty and Wilson filed timely notices of appeal concerning the denial of their respective motions.

We heard argument in all three cases on May 13, 2010. On August 10, 2010, we consolidated Lighty's and Flood's cases for decision.

It is well-settled that a criminal defendant is entitled to a fair trial not a perfect one. See United States v. Hasting, 461 U.S. 499, 508-09, 103 S.Ct. 1974, 76 L.Ed.2d 96 (1983) (" [G]iven the myriad safeguards provided to assure a fair trial, and taking into account the reality of the human fallibility of the participants, there can be no such thing as an error-free, perfect trial, and ... the Constitution does not guarantee such a trial." ). While the actions of the Assistant United States Attorneys (AUSAs) handling Lighty and Flood's joint trial unnecessarily introduced error into it, such error is not reversible,

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as both Lighty and Flood each received a fair trial. Accordingly, we affirm.1

I

A

Some time between 4:00 and 6:00 p.m. on January 3, 2002, Eugene Scott (also known as " Yogi" ) went to meet his girlfriend, Diamond Van, in front of Van's grandmother's apartment building, which was located near the intersection of Wheeler Road and Alabama Avenue, S.E., Washington, D.C. Scott parked his car across the street from the apartment building, but left the car running as he exited the car to meet Van. By the time he crossed the street, his car was stolen.

At around the same time Scott's car was stolen, Eric Hayes (also known as " Easy" or " E" ) and his friend, Antoine Forrest, were about a block away from the scene of the theft, at Paul Hill's apartment on Eighth Street, S.E., Washington D.C. According to Forrest, Hayes was wearing a green Eddie Bauer coat and Nike shoes with " swirls" on them, and Hayes also had a text pager. 2

At about 6:45 p.m., Hill gave Hayes and Forrest ten dollars and asked them to purchase marijuana for him. As Hayes and Forrest were leaving, Washington, D.C. police officers arrived at the apartment " to serve a warrant or search something." Hayes and Forrest were not detained and, once on Eighth Street, the pair approached " Fat Dog," one of the many drug dealers that operated in the Eighth Street area. Fat Dog was not selling any marijuana at the time because of the presence of police officers on the street. As a result, the trio decided to enter a nearby apartment building (3210 Eighth Street) to observe the police officers from a third floor stairwell window.

While sitting on the window sill, Forrest and Hayes observed a dark Lincoln Continental with tinted windows driving through and around an alley adjacent to the 3210 Eighth Street building. The car stopped in the alley, and the front passenger got out and approached the building.3 The front passenger yelled to the trio, asking them if they had any " water," which Forrest understood to mean as a request for a cigarette soaked in PCP. After responding in the negative, the driver of the car got out, and the request for water was repeated.4 Hayes told the pair that they did not have any water, but had some " sacks," i.e., mint leaves soaked in PCP. The driver said he wanted a sack, so Hayes exited the building and walked with the front passenger and the driver towards the alley adjacent to the building.

When Hayes did not return after a few minutes, Forrest left the 3210 Eighth Street building and approached the alley. Once there, Forrest observed the driver of the Lincoln Continental holding Hayes at gunpoint over the front hood of the car. At this point, the front passenger approached Forrest, brandishing a firearm. Forrest knocked the firearm out of the

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front passenger's hand and fled to Hill's apartment, where several of Hayes' cousins were gathered. The group returned moments later, only to find that the Lincoln Continental and Hayes were gone. For about twenty to twenty-five minutes, Forrest drove " around Southeast" looking for the Lincoln Continental, but could not find it. Upon returning to Hall's apartment, Forrest called the police.

After reporting his car stolen, Scott went to the 2500 block of Keating Street, in the Hillcrest Heights area of Temple Hills, Maryland, to hang out on the street with some friends. Scott could not remember telling any of his friends on Keating Street that his car had been stolen.5 Scott observed an older model car speeding down the street. The car came to a " screech[ing]" halt, and the doors of the car opened. At about the same time, Scott turned his back and started walking away from the car. Scott heard a voice (or voices) saying, " Yogi is this him?," " [s]hut up," and " [w]hat the F." Scott did not respond, continued walking away, and entered Van's car and drove off.6

At approximately 8:30 p.m. that evening, Michael Davis was at his house on the 12800 block of Hillcrest Parkway in Temple Hills, Maryland.7 A dog outside the house was barking uncontrollably, so Davis, who was upstairs packing for an upcoming vacation, looked out a second-story window to see what was going on. Davis saw an older model car stopped at the end of the street, next to undeveloped land owned by Prince George's County. At the time, the presence of the car meant...

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