983 F.2d 1058 (4th Cir. 1993), 92-5029, U.S. v. Morris

Docket Nº:92-5029.
Citation:983 F.2d 1058
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Paul MORRIS, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:January 21, 1993
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

Page 1058

983 F.2d 1058 (4th Cir. 1993)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


Paul MORRIS, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 92-5029.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

January 21, 1993

Editorial Note:

This opinion appears in the Federal reporter in a table titled "Table of Decisions Without Reported Opinions". (See FI CTA4 Rule 36 regarding use of unpublished opinions)

Argued: October 30, 1992

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, at Elkins. Frederick P. Stamp, Jr., District Judge. (CR-91-30)

Paul Joseph Harris, WALLACE, ROSS & HARRIS, Martinsburg, West Virginia, for Appellant.

Thomas Oliver Mucklow, Assistant United States Attorney, Wheeling, West Virginia, for Appellee.

William A. Kolibash, United States Attorney, Sam Nazzaro, Assistant United States Attorney, Wheeling, West Virginia, for Appellee.



Before PHILLIPS, WILKINSON, and LUTTIG, Circuit Judges.



Paul Morris appeals his conviction by jury verdict on charges of possession, distribution and conspiracy to distribute cocaine. He challenges a number of pre-trial and trial rulings. We find no reversible error and affirm.


Morris was indicted on the drug charges along with several other defendants. Before trial, one of the co-defendants, Barrett, moved for a severance. Morris did not join in this motion nor move separately for severance. The district court denied the motion.

During the trial (after the second day), Morris's counsel brought to the court's attention that the United States Attorney's office had caused an anti-drug-use poster to be placed in the lobby of the Post Office building in which the trial courtroom was situated. Located at a point where jurors in the case necessarily would see it on the way to the courtroom, it depicted a teenager signing a billboard on which appeared the message, "line up to ... sign up for ... America's drug free decade." Morris's counsel moved for a mistrial "if ... warranted", or, alternatively, for an order requiring removal of the sign during the trial, and for a cautionary instruction to the jury. The district court denied the motion for mistrial after hearing opposing counsel's arguments. No inquiry was made as to possible impact of the poster upon the jury. In an "overabundance of precaution", however, the court directed removal of the poster for the duration of the trial. No cautionary instruction was given the jury.

On the first day of trial, it came to defense counsel's attention that the government had a fingerprint analysis report, not previously dis-closed to the defense, indicating that the only fingerprint found on a cigarette pack allegedly used as a drug package by Morris and his codefendant in a critical drug sale was not Morris's. Claiming a violation of the duty of disclosure of exculpating evidence imposed by Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), Morris moved for a mistrial. The motion was denied.

Following return of the jury's guilty verdict, Morris moved for acquittal or, alternatively, for a new trial on grounds of the prejudicial effect of the anti-drug poster, the failure of the government to divulge before trial the allegedly exculpatory fingerprint evidence, and several of the court's evidentiary rulings. The motion was denied, and this appeal followed. On it, Morris challenges the district court's ruling on the various...

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