U.S. v. Prince, 10–3180.

Decision Date05 August 2011
Docket NumberNo. 10–3180.,10–3180.
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff–Appellee,v.Judah PRINCE, also known as Rex A. Lutes, Defendant–Appellant.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Tenth Circuit


Timothy J. Henry, Assistant Federal Public Defender, Federal Public Defender Office, Wichita, KS, for Appellant.James A. Brown, Assistant United States Attorney (Barry R. Grissom, United States Attorney, and Matt Treaster, Assistant United States Attorney, with him on the brief) United States Attorney's Office, Wichita, KS, for Appellee.Before TYMKOVICH, SEYMOUR, and ANDERSON, Circuit Judges.TYMKOVICH, Circuit Judge.

Appealing his drug convictions, Judah Prince asks us to decide two questions of first impression in our circuit. First, does the Constitution bar the government from peremptorily striking prospective jurors because of their views on marijuana legalization? On this question, we find no constitutional protection. Given the posture of Prince's case, the Constitution does not prohibit parties from striking jurors on this basis.

The second question is whether a conviction under 18 U.S.C. § 924(a)(1)(A), which criminalizes making false statements to federally licensed firearms dealers, requires a defendant to know that his false statement will be kept in the firearm dealer's written records, as mandated by federal law. Because the records-keeping requirement is purely a jurisdictional element, we hold there is no such mens rea requirement.

Accordingly, we reject Prince's arguments on these two points. And, after a careful consideration of the record, we also reject Prince's challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence and his sentence. Therefore, exercising jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and 18 U.S.C. § 3742(a), we AFFIRM Prince's conviction and sentence.

I. Background

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) originally identified Prince in connection with an investigation into illegal sales of firearm parts. The ATF suspected an individual had been manufacturing and illegally selling AK–47 “flats” on GunBroker.com, and it traced one of the sales to Prince. Investigating further, ATF agents ultimately discovered that Prince had made more than 150 purchases from GunBroker.com, including AK–47 assault rifles, fully automatic trigger parts, demilled fully automatic weapons, and Uzis. [R., Vol. II at 354–55.] In connection with their inquiries, ATF agents questioned a firearms dealer who handled transactions for Prince. The dealer alerted Prince to the investigation.

When ATF agents located Prince, he admitted to buying the guns and gun parts and agreed to show the agents his purchases, which he kept in his garage. At Prince's Newton, Kansas residence, the agents saw various gun parts and ammunition, and they obtained a warrant to search the house. Soon thereafter, the agents encountered Prince's adult children, who often stayed at the residence. Upon searching the house, the agents found 54 firearms and approximately 10,000 rounds of ammunition. But that was not all. They also found more than 200 marijuana plants in the basement and evidence that suggested Prince was involved in their cultivation.1 Finally, the ATF discovered Prince had repeatedly given a false address to federally licensed firearms dealers.

The government charged Prince with one count of manufacturing marijuana plants, 25 counts of making false statements to a federally licensed firearms dealer, and one count of unlawful use of a controlled substance while possessing a firearm. 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) (count 1); 18 U.S.C. § 924(a)(1)(A) (counts 2–26); 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(b)(3), 924(a)(2) (count 27). Prince pleaded not guilty. Before trial, the district court granted Prince's motion to suppress evidence seized by the government during a search of his residence, and the court also sua sponte ordered suppression of all evidence obtained by the government from the inception of its investigation of Prince. The government appealed, and we reversed the district court and remanded for trial. See United States v. Prince, 593 F.3d 1178 (10th Cir.2010), cert. denied, ––– U.S. ––––, 130 S.Ct. 3429, 177 L.Ed.2d 338 (2010).

After trial, the jury convicted Prince of the marijuana manufacturing count and the twenty-five false statement counts. He was acquitted of unlawfully using a controlled substance while possessing a firearm. Pursuant to 21 U.S.C. § 841(b)(1)(B), Prince was subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years' imprisonment; this included a mandatory five-year enhancement tied to a prior felony drug conviction for growing marijuana. Accordingly, the district court sentenced Prince to the mandatory minimum ten years' imprisonment.

II. Discussion

Prince contends (1) the district court erred in allowing the government to strike jurors for their belief that marijuana should be legalized, (2) the jury instructions were based on a misinterpretation of § 924(a)(1)(A), (3) the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction, and (4) the district court issued an improper sentence. After thoroughly reviewing the record, we conclude these arguments lack merit.

A. Jury Selection

Prince raises two challenges to the district court's administration of jury selection. First, relying on Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69 (1986), he contends the government's peremptory challenges, which eliminated jurors who favored legalization of marijuana, infringed his rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Second, he argues his Sixth Amendment rights were violated because the empaneled jury was not drawn from a fair cross-section of the community.2 Neither assertion is persuasive.

1. Batson Challenge

During jury selection, the government asked potential jurors whether they believed marijuana should be legalized. Four prospective jurors answered “yes.” Later, over Prince's objection, the government used peremptory strikes to remove each of these prospective jurors.

Prince contends this was an equal protection violation under Batson. He says that because the government may not strike jurors on the basis of their race, it also may not strike jurors on the basis of political or ideological beliefs. Specifically, Prince asks us to extend Batson—which traditionally has been applied only to peremptory strikes based on race and other protected classes under the Fourteenth Amendment—to prohibit exclusions of prospective jurors based on their views of marijuana legalization.

We resist this invitation. Prince's Batson challenge fails because, as a matter of law, Batson does not extend to the exclusion of jurors based on their beliefs regarding marijuana legalization. A brief review of the Supreme Court's reasoning explains why. In Batson, the Supreme Court held the “Equal Protection Clause forbids the prosecutor to challenge potential jurors solely on account of their race or on the assumption that black jurors as a group will be unable impartially to consider the State's case against a black defendant.” 476 U.S. at 89, 106 S.Ct. 1712. Lodging a successful Batson challenge requires three steps:

First, the defendant must make out a prima facie case by showing that the totality of the relevant facts gives rise to an inference of discriminatory purpose. Second, once the defendant has made out a prima facie case, the burden shifts to the State to explain adequately the racial exclusion by offering permissible race-neutral justifications for the strikes. Third, [i]f a race-neutral explanation is tendered, the trial court must then decide ... whether the opponent of the strike has proved purposeful racial discrimination.

Johnson v. California, 545 U.S. 162, 168, 125 S.Ct. 2410, 162 L.Ed.2d 129 (2005) (citations and quotations omitted). In assessing an equal protection claim under this test, we review “for clear error the district court's finding of whether the striking party had discriminatory intent.” United States v. Castorena–Jaime, 285 F.3d 916, 927 (10th Cir.2002). In doing so, we “afford [ ] great deference to [the district court's] decision on discriminatory intent, which represents a finding of fact.” Id. We review de novo whether the government's proffered explanation for striking the jurors was appropriate. United States v. Smith, 534 F.3d 1211, 1226 (10th Cir.2008). [T]he ultimate burden of persuasion,” however, “regarding [improper] motivation rests with, and never shifts from” the party opposing the strike. Purkett v. Elem, 514 U.S. 765, 768, 115 S.Ct. 1769, 131 L.Ed.2d 834 (1995) (per curiam).

Prince cannot get past the first step of the Batson analysis. Batson originally addressed only peremptory strikes based on race, but the principle has subsequently been extended to other groups receiving heightened protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. See, e.g., J.E.B. v. Alabama ex rel. T.B., 511 U.S. 127, 143, 114 S.Ct. 1419, 128 L.Ed.2d 89 (1994) (applying Batson to sex); Kesser v. Cambra, 465 F.3d 351 (9th Cir.2006) (applying Batson to strikes against Native Americans); United States v. Brown, 352 F.3d 654, 666 (2d Cir.2003) (applying Batson to religious affiliation); United States v. Rudas, 905 F.2d 38 (2d Cir.1990) (applying Batson to strikes against Hispanics). There is no precedent, however, for extending Batson to exclusions based on the beliefs of prospective jurors. And in fact, every court we could find has expressly refused to extend Batson beyond these traditional limits. See, e.g., United States v. DeJesus, 347 F.3d 500, 511 (3d Cir.2003) (“The distinction drawn by the District Court between a strike motivated by religious beliefs and one motivated by religious affiliation is valid and proper.”); United States v. Stafford, 136 F.3d 1109, 1114 (7th Cir.1998) (“It would be improper and perhaps unconstitutional to strike a juror on the basis of his being a Catholic, a Jew, [or] a Muslim,” but it would be “proper to strike him on the basis of a belief that...

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