USA v. Marquist William
PUBLISHED OPINION FILED. [15-11265 Affirmed] Judge: PEH, Judge: EHJ, Judge: CH. Mandate pull date is 02/21/2017 for Appellant Marquist Theobles Williams [15-11265]
Date Filed: 01/31/2017
IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT
United States Court of Appeals
January 31, 2017
Lyle W. Cayce
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
Plaintiff - Appellee
MARQUIST THEOBLES WILLIAMS,
Defendant - Appellant
Appeal from the United States District Court
for the Northern District of Texas
Before HIGGINBOTHAM, JONES, and HAYNES, Circuit Judges.
PATRICK E. HIGGINBOTHAM, Circuit Judge:
The district court revoked the defendant’s supervised release and
sentenced him to prison. Despite not having raised an objection at the time,
the defendant now complains that the district court violated his due process
right to confrontation by considering hearsay. Finding no plain error, we
Marquist Williams pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm in
furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, earning him a sentence of sixty months’
imprisonment and three years’ supervised release. He served that prison term,
but then during his supervised release, the probation office petitioned to revoke
Date Filed: 01/31/2017
for violating his release terms. A Supervised Release Violation Report (SRVR)
alleged that Williams possessed controlled substances, intentionally submitted
“invalid” or “dilute” urine samples, and advised other addicts how to do the
same. Williams pleaded “true” to the SRVR. The district court found that
Williams violated the conditions of his release, adopted the SRVR, and
sentenced him to twenty-four months’ imprisonment and an additional twentyfour months’ supervised release.
Williams contends that the district court plainly erred by admitting into
evidence in the revocation hearing the hearsay statement that he helped other
addicts cheat on their drug tests. Because a revocation hearing is not a criminal
prosecution, “the full panoply of rights due a defendant in such a proceeding
does not apply.” 1 By way of example, the Federal Rules of Evidence do not
apply. 2 At the same time, revocation defendants are not wholly without
protection. Due process requires that a revocation defendant have “the right to
confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses (unless the hearing officer
specifically finds good cause for not allowing confrontation).” 3 Thus, if the
government in a revocation proceeding wishes to offer hearsay evidence, it
must show “good cause” for pretermitting live testimony. 4
In determining whether to invoke the Morrissey “good cause”
exception to a defendant’s right of confrontation, courts are
instructed to employ a balancing test in which they are to weigh
“the [defendant’s] interest in confronting a particular witness
against the government’s good cause for denying it, particularly
Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471, 480 (1972).
FED. R. EVID. 1101(d)(3); United States v. Grandlund, 71 F.3d 507, 509 (5th Cir.
United States v. McCormick, 54 F.3d 214, 221 (5th Cir. 1995) (quoting Morrissey, 408
U.S. at 489); see also FED. R. CRIM. P. 32.1(b)(2)(c).
4 McCormick, 54 F.3d at 221.
Date Filed: 01/31/2017
focusing on the ‘indicia of reliability’ of a given hearsay
Williams’s objection being admittedly unpreserved, we review for plain
error. 6 “A plain error is a forfeited error that is clear or obvious and affects the
defendant’s substantial rights. When those elements are shown, this court has
the discretion to correct the error only if it seriously affects the fairness,
integrity, or public reputation of judicial proceedings.” 7
We find no plain error. Even assuming a clear and obvious error, the
district court’s consideration of the hearsay could not have affected Williams’s
substantial rights. Absent an exception, Williams was subject to mandatory
revocation and imprisonment pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3583(g) because, as he
admitted, he possessed a controlled substance and failed more than three drug
tests in one year. 8 Even absent the complained-of hearsay evidence, the district
court was thus required to revoke Williams’s supervised release and imprison
him. So to the extent that the district court considered the hearsay statement
at all, it could have done so only in connection with the length of Williams’s
prison sentence. A revocation defendant’s due process right to confrontation
does not apply in connection with the length of any resulting prison sentence. 9
Accordingly, Williams’s substantial rights went necessarily unaffected by the
Id. (quoting United States v. Kindred, 918 F.2d 485, 486 (5th Cir. 1990)).
United States v. Whitelaw, 580 F.3d 256, 259 (5th Cir. 2009).
7 United States v. Diaz, 637 F.3d 592, 601 (5th Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks
and citations omitted).
8 18 U.S.C. § 3583(g)(1), (4).
9 See United States v. Jimenez, 275 F. App’x 433, 438 (5th Cir. 2008) (unpublished)
(“[B]ecause [the defendant] does not challenge the decision to revoke his supervised release,
but only his revocation sentence, the right to confrontation under Morrissey does not apply
to this case.”); United States v. Beydoun, 469 F.3d 102, 108 (5th Cir. 2006).
Date Filed: 01/31/2017
Williams argues that he might have been entitled to relief from the
§ 3583(g) mandate under 18 U.S.C. § 3583(d) but for the district court’s
consideration of the hearsay. That section reads:
The court shall consider whether the availability of appropriate
substance abuse treatment programs, or an individual's current or
past participation in such programs, warrants an exception in
accordance with United States Sentencing Commission guidelines
from the rule of section 3583(g) when considering any action
against a defendant who fails a drug test. 10
However, even assuming that Williams qualified for relief under § 3583(d), he
has not met his burden to convince us that the district court would have
exercised its discretion under that section. 11 In fact, the record reveals that
Williams’s history of participation in treatment programs has been
unsuccessful and sporadic, making it unlikely that the district court would
have opted to sentence Williams to further treatment in lieu of mandatory
revocation and imprisonment.
Because Williams has not demonstrated that any error affected his
substantial rights, we find no plain error.
For the reasons described, the judgment of the district court is affirmed.
18 U.S.C. § 3583(d).
See United States v. Olano, 507 U.S. 725, 734 (5th Cir. 1993) (burden of persuasion
falls on defendant claiming plain error to demonstrate that his or her substantial rights were
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