United States v. Spruill, Docket No. 13–4069–cr.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
Writing for the CourtREENA RAGGI, Circuit Judge
Citation808 F.3d 585
Parties UNITED STATES of America, Appellee, v. Jeff SPRUILL, Defendant–Appellant.
Docket NumberDocket No. 13–4069–cr.
Decision Date16 December 2015

808 F.3d 585

UNITED STATES of America, Appellee,
Jeff SPRUILL, Defendant–Appellant.

Docket No. 13–4069–cr.

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.

Argued: Oct. 1, 2014.
Decided: Dec. 16, 2015.

808 F.3d 587

Sarala V. Nagala, Assistant United States Attorney (Marc H. Silverman, Assistant United States Attorney, on the brief), for Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, New Haven, CT, for Appellee.

Harry Sandick (Andrew D. Cohen, on the brief), Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler L.L.P., New York, N.Y., for Defendant–Appellant.

Before: POOLER, RAGGI, and HALL, Circuit Judges.

Judge POOLER dissents in a separate opinion.

REENA RAGGI, Circuit Judge:

Defendant Jeff Spruill appeals from a judgment of conviction entered on July 12, 2013, in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut (Robert N. Chatigny, J. ), after a jury trial at which he was found guilty of two counts of possession with intent to distribute and distribution of cocaine and cocaine base (Counts One and Two), one count of possession with intent to distribute cocaine (Count Three), and one count of unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon (Count Four). See 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1), 924(a)(2) ; 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(C). Spruill argues that the district court erred in dismissing a "holdout" juror for cause during the course of jury deliberations, in violation of principles enunciated in United States v. Thomas, 116 F.3d 606 (2d Cir.1997). He also challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his convictions on Counts One, Two, and Four; the procedural reasonableness of his sentence, in particular the district court's application of a career offender enhancement under U.S.S.G. § 4B1.1 ; and the effectiveness of former counsel's representation in failing to challenge the § 4B1.1 enhancement. In a supplemental pro se brief, Spruill further argues that knowledge of "drug type" is a here-unproved predicate element of the drug offenses for which he was convicted.1

As we explain herein, Spruill's juror removal challenge fails for two reasons. First, the challenged removal is not subject to Thomas's "any possibility" rule, see 116 F.3d at 621–22, because the concern underlying Thomas, juror nullification, was not here at issue. Rather, removal was based on extrinsic bias, a matter about which the district court could—and did—inquire without intruding on jury deliberations. See id. at 621. Second, Spruill waived any challenge to dismissal of the juror in question by specifically telling the district court that he did not object either to its colloquy with the juror or to the juror's removal, and by in fact recommending the very disposition he now challenges.

808 F.3d 588

For reasons explained in a summary order issued this same day, we reject Spruill's remaining counseled and pro se arguments.

Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of conviction.

I. Background

A. Controlled Purchases

In the summer of 2012, two confidential informants under the direction of Middletown, Connecticut police purchased cocaine and cocaine base from defendant Spruill. The second purchase was made at 18 Glover Place, home of Spruill's girlfriend, Chanelle McCalla.

B. Search Warrant

Soon thereafter, police applied for and were granted a warrant to search 18 Glover Place and Spruill's person. Upon executing the warrant, police found Spruill to be carrying on his person two small plastic bags, one containing marijuana and the other containing cocaine.2

At 18 Glover Place, they discovered men's clothing and toiletries in the master bedroom, as well as a bullet, which McCalla claimed was a souvenir from a date at a shooting range. An unlocked door near the entrance to the master bedroom led to the attic, where police found plastic bags containing Spruill's clothing, as well as garbage bags containing a bulletproof vest and two leather bags, from which police seized a .357–caliber handgun, a .40–caliber handgun with three boxes of ammunition, and a .380–caliber pistol with one box of ammunition.

C. Trial: Jury Selection & Deliberations

Jury selection in Spruill's case took place on July 9, 2013. The focus of our attention on this appeal is Juror 11.3 During voir dire, this juror identified herself as a "clinician in the State of Connecticut ... do [ing] outreach in the prison systems in Hartford." App. 51. Juror 11 explained that "it's not a reason not to serve ... I'm just thinking like if somebody's found guilty, I could also see this person in the prison system." Id.4 In response to a follow-up question from Judge Chatigny asking whether any jurors had "experiences or connections ... involving law enforcement," Juror 11 explained that she worked in the Connecticut Offender Reentry Program, and that the Program's mission is to help inmates with mental health issues receive treatment and to "represent them in the prison and [to] work on their ... life goals." Id. at 53, 56.

Spruill's counsel initially applied, but then withdrew, a peremptory challenge to Juror 11. The record reflects the following exchange:

THE COURT: Mr. Weingast [defense counsel], I'm just interested in why you removed [Juror 11].

MR. WEINGAST: We discussed that very carefully. The fact that she worked in prisons ... was basically what tipped the scales....

THE COURT: What is your concern?
808 F.3d 589
MR. WEINGAST: I think with work, she's a bit jaded. That was a decision by both me and my client.

THE COURT: But Mr. Spruill wanted you to remove her?

MR. WEINGAST: Yes, Your Honor. Can I just doublecheck?



MR. WEINGAST: We'll keep her instead.

THE COURT: I'm sorry?

MR. WEINGAST: We'll keep her.


THE COURT: To be clear, Mr. Weingast, I don't want Mr. Spruill to think that I am here to influence his exercise of peremptories, because I'm not.

MR. WEINGAST: No, Your Honor absolutely not. This is ... one we weighed very carefully, and on balance with what the Court just said, we talked about it some more and my client would like to keep her.


Id. at 116–17. Juror 11 ultimately served on the jury.

After the close of evidence, during deliberations, the court received two jury notes in close succession. The first revealed that the jury was divided, apparently 11 to 1, and sought clarification as to the law of constructive possession:

Your Honor, we have one juror that at this point that does not agree with the jury. He/she has doubts and at this point is unwilling to change their vote. There is also the law for constructive possession and clarity on the law. We would like you to confirm that we should take what is stated on page 20 as law.

The majority of the jurors are unwilling to stop too quickly at the expense of justice. How should we proceed? Do we continue discussing the points?

Id. at 521. The second note indicated one juror's concern about a conflict of interest:

We have one juror who feels in their gut that they have a conflict of interest. We need to understand how to proceed.


Invited to comment on the first note, both the prosecutor and Spruill's counsel stated that the jury did not appear deadlocked and should be instructed to continue deliberations. As to the second note, counsel agreed that it was not clear whether the "holdout" juror in the first note and the "conflicted" juror in the second note were one and the same. With counsel's agreement, the court decided to give the jury further instruction.

In response to the first note, the court reminded the jurors that "[e]ach of you must decide the case for yourself" and "if after carefully considering all the evidence and the arguments of your fellow jurors you entertain a conscientious view that differs from the others, you are not to yield your conviction simply because you are outnumbered." Id. at 530–31. This immediately prompted a third note, requesting a definition of "conscientious view." The court explained, "the term refers to a view of the case based on fair and impartial consideration of all the evidence and full and fair discussion of the issues in the case with the other jurors." Id. at 532. The court then asked counsel whether they agreed with the stated definition, and both responded with approval.

Addressing the second note, the district court instructed the jury on "conflict of interest" as follows:

Like judges, jurors are required to be impartial and unbiased. A juror is not permitted to have a personal bias for or against any party.
808 F.3d 590
A conflict of interest can arise when a juror has a financial interest in a case, knows one of the lawyers or parties or witnesses, or has been personally involved in a situation like the one at issue in the case.

A conflict of interest is in the nature of a personal stake or involvement in the case that makes it difficult for the individual to be fair and impartial, to decide the case based solely on the evidence and the applicable law, not on anything else.


[I]f after considering these brief comments it appears that

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