US v. Johnnie Foster

Filing 920100420

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UNPUBLISHED UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT No. 09-4245 UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff Appellee, v. JOHNNIE ELIJAH FOSTER, a/k/a Johnny Elijah Foster, a/k/a John Elijah Foster, Defendant Appellant. Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, at Newport News. Raymond A. Jackson, District Judge. (4:08-cr-00039-RAJ-TEM-1) Submitted: March 29, 2010 Decided: April 20, 2010 Before NIEMEYER and KING, Circuit Judges, and HAMILTON, Senior Circuit Judge. Affirmed by unpublished per curiam opinion. Michael S. Nachmanoff, Federal Public Defender, Frances H. Pratt, Larry M. Dash, Assistant Federal Public Defenders, Norfolk, Virginia, for Appellant. Dana J. Boente, United States Attorney, Timothy R. Murphy, Special Assistant United States Attorney, Scott J. Upright, Second Year Law Student, Newport News, Virginia, for Appellee. Unpublished opinions are not binding precedent in this circuit. PER CURIAM: Johnnie Elijah Foster appeals his conviction of simple possession of crack cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. 844(a) (2006). Foster was originally charged in a one-count indictment alleging possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. 841(a) (2006). Prior to submitting Foster's case to the jury, the district court instructed the jury on the elements of possession with intent to distribute. After considerable deliberation, the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on the sole count in the indictment and asked whether Foster could be convicted of simple possession of crack cocaine. The district court then instructed the jury on the Thereafter, the elements of simple possession of crack cocaine. jury convicted Foster of simple possession of more than five grams but less than fifty grams of crack cocaine. The district court sentenced Foster to 78 months' imprisonment, and Foster timely noted his appeal. Foster raises two arguments on appeal. Foster, the district court erred in instructing According to the jury on simple possession because that offense is not a lesser-included offense of possession with intent to distribute. Foster concedes that he did not raise this claim in the district court and that his claim is, therefore, reviewed only for plain error. Plain error review requires the defendant to establish that: 2 (1) there was error; (2) the error was "plain;" and (3) the error States affected v. the defendant's U.S. 725, substantial 732 rights. Even United if the Olano, 507 (1993). defendant makes this required showing, "Fed. R. Crim. P. 52(b) leaves the decision to correct the forfeited error within the sound discretion of the court of appeals, and the court should not exercise the that discretion unless or the error seriously of affect[s] fairness, integrity, public reputation judicial proceedings." States v. Young, 470 Olano, 507 U.S. at 732 (quoting United U.S. 1, 15 (1985) (internal quotations omitted)). Foster concedes that the first two elements in the simple possession statute, 21 U.S.C. 844(a), are identical to the first two elements for possession with intent to distribute in 21 U.S.C. 841(a). He argues, though, that 844(a) contains a third element that is not an element of possession with intent to distribute, namely that the defendant did not possess the controlled substance pursuant to a valid prescription order. According Foster's argument fails. to 21 U.S.C. 885(a)(1), it is not "necessary for the United States to negative any exemption or exception set forth in this subchapter . . . in any trial[.]" 21 U.S.C. 885(a)(1). Thus, the exception in 844(a) for possession pursuant to a valid prescription is an affirmative 3 defense that Foster was required to establish. Moreover, Foster bears the burden of establishing error by the district court, and our review of the relevant case law leads us to conclude that Foster has failed to do so. See United States v. Jones, 204 F.3d 541, 544 (4th Cir. 2000); United States v. Baker, 985 F.2d 1248, 1259 (4th Cir. 1993). to demonstrate that the Therefore, Foster has failed court plainly erred in district determining that simple possession is a lesser-included offense of possession with intent to distribute. Next, Foster claims that the district court erred in instructing the jury on simple possession when the element "with intent to distribute," was not in dispute, and there was no evidence of personal use. The only evidence relevant to personal use was the opinion of an expert witness that, in his experience, a thirty-four-gram quantity of crack cocaine was not consistent with personal use, but was consistent with distribution. This court reviews for abuse of discretion both the decision to grant and the content v. of a 55 requested F.3d 933, jury 935 instruction. (4th Cir. 1995). United States Burgos, A defendant is "entitled to an instruction on a lesser included offense if the evidence would permit a jury rationally to find him guilty of the lesser offense and acquit 4 him of the greater." (1973). We criteria. find Keeble v. United States, 412 U.S. 205, 208 that the evidence presented satisfies this Accordingly, we find no abuse of discretion by the district court in instructing the jury on the lesser-included offense. dispense We therefore affirm the district court's judgment. with oral argument because the facts and We legal contentions are adequately presented in the materials before the court and argument would not aid the decisional process. AFFIRMED 5

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