United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Huntington Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. CHAMBERS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
pending before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Sever.
ECF No. 153. For reasons specified herein, Defendant's
motion is DENIED.
December 19, 2017, a Grand Jury charged Defendant Karl
Lamerique, Marquise Henderson, Rigoberto Fernandez, Jr.,
Arvin Fabre, Andre Watson, and Kevin Lamerique with multiple
criminal offenses by way of a Second Superseding Indictment.
ECF No. 110. The indictment included nine counts of criminal
conduct, each brought against one or more of the above-named
February 7, 2018, Defendant filed the present Motion to
Sever, arguing that trying him with the other defendants in
this case will violate his rights to confront and
cross-examine witnesses and his right to a fair and impartial
jury. ECF No. 153.
Standard of Review
Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure empower the Government to
charge two or more defendants together in the same indictment
if the defendants charged are “alleged to have
participated in the same act or transaction, or in the same
series of acts or transactions, constituting an offense or
offenses.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 8(b). After two or more
defendants have been charged together in the same indictment,
one or more may seek severance from the joinder pursuant to
Rule 14. Fed. R. Crim. P. 14(a) (“If the joinder of
offenses or defendants in an indictment . . . appears to
prejudice a defendant or the government, the court may order
separate trials of counts, sever the defendants' trials,
or provide any other relief that justice requires.”).
Where there has been proper joinder pursuant to Rule 8,
however, severance pursuant to Rule 14 is rare. United
States v. Hornsby, 666 F.3d 296, 309 (4th Cir. 2012). To
prevail on a motion for severance, a defendant bears the
burden of making a “strong showing of prejudice . .
.” United States v. Branch, 537 F.3d 328, 341
(4th Cir. 2008) (internal quotation and citation omitted).
“[t]here is a preference in the federal system for
joint trials of defendants who are indicted together.”
Zafiro v. United States, 506 U.S. 534, 537 (1993).
Joint trials “promote efficiency and serve the
interests of justice by avoiding the scandal and inequity of
inconsistent verdicts.” Id. (internal
quotation and citation omitted). “[W]hen defendants
properly have been joined under Rule 8, a district court
should grant a severance under Rule 14 only if there
is a serious risk that a joint trial would . . . prevent the
jury from making a reliable judgment about guilt or
innocence.” United States v. Cardwell, 433
F.3d 378, 387 (4th Cir. 2005) (original emphasis) (internal
quotation and citation omitted). “It is not enough for
the defendant to show that severance [would offer] him a
better chance of acquittal.” Id. (internal
quotation and citation omitted).
considering a motion for severance, “[t]he trial court
must weigh the inconvenience and expense to the government
and witnesses of separate trials against the prejudice to the
defendants inherent in a joint trial . . .” United
States v. Becker, 585 F.2d 703, 706 (4th Cir. 1978).
Even if prejudice is shown, a trial court is not required to
sever a defendant from a joint trial. Zafiro, 506
U.S. at 538-39. Instead, Rule 14 leaves the task of tailoring
relief from any prejudice “to the district court's
sound discretion.” Id. at 539. The Supreme
Court has instructed lower courts that prejudice resulting
from joint trials will often be sufficiently cured by
remedies “less drastic” than severance.
Id. at 540.
makes no argument that the original joinder of these
defendants was improper under Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of
Criminal Procedure. See ECF No. 153. Instead,
Defendant argues that failure to sever will result in
violations of his right to “confront and cross-examine
witnesses” and his “right to a fair and impartial
jury.” ECF No. 153, at 1.
first argument regarding his right to confront and
cross-examine witnesses relates to the statements of
codefendant Arvin Fabre. Defendant argues that the
Government's introduction of Fabre's statements at
trial would violate the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth
Amendment. ECF No. 153, at 3. The Government, in its
response, asserts that it “does not intend to introduce
[Fabre's statement(s)] during its case-in-chief at
trial.” ECF No. 173, at 5. The Court finds that
Defendant's argument regarding his Sixth Amendment right
to confront witnesses is therefore mooted by the
next argues that he should be granted a severance because the
evidence in this case is stronger as to his codefendants than
it is to him and that the jury will therefore be prejudiced
against him should all defendants be tried jointly. ECF No.
153, at 5. The Government maintains that Defendant was
actually a participant in and leader of the presently charged
conspiracy and that, as such, Defendant's trial should
not be severed from the trial of his codefendants. ECF No.
persons charged in a conspiracy should be tried
together.” United States v. Roberts, 881 F.2d
95, 102 (4th Cir. 1989). Joint trials promote “the
reliability and consistency” of the judicial process by
giving juries “a more complete view of all the acts
underlying the charges than would be possible in separate
trials.” Buchanan v. Kentucky, 483 U.S. 402,
418 (1987). Particularly where the crimes charged against the
codefendants arise from the same conduct, a joint trial
allows the jury “to arrive more reliably at its