928 F.2d 1163 (D.C. Cir. 1991), 90-3082, U.S. v. Byfield

Docket Nº:90-3082.
Citation:928 F.2d 1163
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Appellant, v. Wayne BYFIELD, Appellee.
Case Date:March 29, 1991
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
 
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Page 1163

928 F.2d 1163 (D.C. Cir. 1991)

UNITED STATES of America, Appellant,

v.

Wayne BYFIELD, Appellee.

No. 90-3082.

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit.

March 29, 1991

Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc Denied May 30, 1991.

Argued Feb. 25, 1991.

Page 1164

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (Criminal No. 89-322).

Stevan E. Bunnell, Asst. U.S. Atty., with whom Jay B. Stephens, U.S. Atty., John R. Fisher and Roy W. McLeese, III, Washington, D.C., Asst. U.S. Attys., were on the brief, for appellant.

Jensen E. Barber, Washington, D.C., for appellee.

Before MIKVA, Chief Judge, D. H. GINSBURG and SENTELLE, Circuit Judges.

Opinion for the Court filed by Chief Judge MIKVA.

MIKVA, Chief Judge:

After a jury found Wayne Byfield guilty on one count of possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine, the district court granted his motion for judgment of acquittal notwithstanding the verdict. See Memorandum Opinion (D.D.C. Feb. 16, 1990) (hereinafter "Mem. Op."). The trial judge concluded that there was insufficient evidence, as a matter of law, to prove that the defendant had constructively possessed the cocaine found in a tote bag carried by a young girl apparently travelling with him. Because the district court applied the incorrect standard for judging a motion for acquittal brought after the verdict, and therefore failed to consider all of the evidence supporting a jury verdict based on constructive possession, we reverse.

  1. BACKGROUND

    On August 18, 1989, Wayne Byfield and a young girl took Amtrak's "Night Owl" train from New York to Washington, D.C. Thomas Maher, an Amtrak detective, testified that Byfield and the young girl sat together and talked quietly during the trip. Maher followed them off the train and into Union Station. He testified that they looked "very nervous." Byfield had no luggage, but the young girl carried a tote bag. They stood next to each other and talked as they rode an escalator from the train platform. Byfield then moved ahead of the girl in the station, but she approached him again and had a brief conversation while they walked "very swiftly." Byfield went ahead, looking back at the girl and pushing downward with both hands, evidently motioning her to stay back away from him. Maher observed Byfield repeat these furtive hand gestures at least two more times.

    Detective Maher alerted two Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD") detectives on duty at Union Station. Maher and Detective Zattau approached the girl, who was approximately 20-30 feet behind Byfield at this time. Zattau described her as "very hesitant and very nervous" when they talked with her, and testified that "[s]he would look in front of her and ... up ahead of her towards Mr. Byfield." When asked if she had a ticket, the girl apparently pointed to Byfield. During a consensual search of her tote bag, the detectives found a shoe box for Etonics Transam trainers (size 8- 1/2 men's, white and light grey) containing an old pair of New Balance shoes and six plastic bags holding

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    over 600 grams of crack cocaine. The tote bag also contained men's clothing (all size extra-large), but no women's clothing.

    William Buss, the other MPD detective, approached Byfield outside the...

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