USA v. Duane Byer
UNPUBLISHED OPINION FILED. [12-40148 Affirmed] Judge: JES , Judge: ECP , Judge: SAH. Mandate pull date is 01/02/2013 for Appellant Duane Lamar Byers [12-40148]
Date Filed: 12/12/2012
IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
United States Court of Appeals
FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT
December 12, 2012
Lyle W. Cayce
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
DUANE LAMAR BYERS,
Appeal from the United States District Court
for the Southern District of Texas
USDC No. 2:11-CR-818-1
Before SMITH, PRADO, and HIGGINSON, Circuit Judges.
Duane Byers appeals his conviction by a jury of one count of possession of
Pursuant to 5TH CIR. R. 47.5, the court has determined that this opinion should not
be published and is not precedent except under the limited circumstances set forth in 5TH CIR.
Date Filed: 12/12/2012
more than fifty kilograms of marihuana with intent to distribute. Because
Byers’s motion for acquittal preserved the issue, we review the “evidence and the
inferences that may be drawn from it in the light most favorable to the verdict”
and determine whether “a rational jury could have found the essential elements
of the offenses beyond a reasonable doubt.” United States v. Valdez, 453 F.3d
252, 256 (5th Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
The evidence supports the jury’s finding that Byers knowingly possessed
the marihuana. Ronald Hall testified that Byers agreed to drive with him to
Texas to pick up a load of marihuana and transport it in exchange for $10,000.
Hall described meetings and exchanges of trucks with a contact named Freddie
and codefendant Lloyd Archibald, as well as conversations about the size of the
load and directions to the destination in Missouri, during which Byers was present. Hall also testified that Byers offered him money to take the blame after
they were arrested. Archibald’s testimony regarding the trip was consistent
with Hall’s testimony, and Archibald confirmed that he heard Byers offer Hall
money to “take the rap.”
Although both men pleaded guilty and were offered the possibility of a
reduced sentence if they cooperated, “a guilty verdict may be sustained if supported only by the uncorroborated testimony of a coconspirator, even if the witness is interested due to a plea bargain or promise of leniency, unless the testimony is incredible or insubstantial on its face.” United States v. Bermea, 30 F.3d
1539, 1552 (5th Cir. 1994). There was nothing incredible on its face about Hall’s
or Archibald’s testimony. In addition, their prior convictions do not necessarily
make their testimony unbelievable.
In short, the jury chose to believe Hall and Archibald, despite their selfinterest and prior convictions, and the jury evidently rejected Byers’s explanation to law enforcement that he first learned of the marihuana just before reaching the checkpoint. Such credibility assessments and weighing of evidence were
exclusively the jury’s role. See United States v. Seale, 600 F.3d 473, 496 (5th Cir.
Date Filed: 12/12/2012
In addition, there was corroborating circumstantial evidence of Byers’s
guilt. Consistent with Hall’s testimony, Border Patrol agents testified that the
marihuana limited the gas tank’s capacity to just a few gallons. A jury may reasonably infer knowledge of drugs hidden in a gas tank from evidence of greatly
reduced fuel capacity. United States v. Resio-Trejo, 45 F.3d 907, 913 (5th Cir.
1995). Byers’s nervous behavior at the checkpoint likewise may constitute circumstantial evidence of guilty knowledge. See United States v. Ortega Reyna,
148 F.3d 540, 544 (5th Cir. 1998). Further, the marihuana was valuable, which
permits an inference of knowledge. See United States v. Villareal, 324 F.3d 319,
324 (5th Cir. 2003). The quantity and value of the marihuana also support a
finding that it was intended for distribution. See United States v. Harrison, 55
F.3d 163, 165 (5th Cir. 1995).
Byers’s contentionSSthat the jury’s inability to reach a decision on the conspiracy count means it must have found the witnesses’s testimony incredibleSS
is without merit. Juries may return inconsistent verdicts, and even “[a] not
guilty verdict on one count does not establish any facts favorable to the defense
for the purpose of determining the sufficiency of the evidence on the counts of
conviction.” United States v. Parks, 68 F.3d 860, 865 (5th Cir. 1995) (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted).
The judgment is AFFIRMED.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?