United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
RIGGS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER comes before the Court upon Defendants' Motion to
Preserve Right to Jury Trial, filed August 27, 2019
(Doc. 34). Having reviewed the parties'
pleadings and considered the controlling law, the Court finds
that Defendants' motion is not well-taken and, therefore,
move that this Court (1) instruct the jury that they can
return a not guilty verdict if they find Defendants guilty
but believe conviction otherwise unjust, and (2) instruct the
jury about the sentencing consequences. Defendants attached
the proposed instructions to their motion.
short, both requests are denied because the Tenth Circuit has
squarely addressed both arguments and rejected them. See
United States v. Courtney, 816 F.3d 681, 686 (10th Cir.
2016). Defendants apparently seek a change in Tenth Circuit
and United States Supreme Court law. However, this Court is
bound by such precedent.
Defendants are Not Entitled to a Jury Nullification
request that the Court instruct the jurors that they can
return a verdict of not guilty if they find Defendants guilty
but believe conviction to be unjust. While a jury may choose
to disregard the application of law to facts when rendering
its verdict, the Tenth Circuit has repeatedly affirmed that a
Defendant is not entitled to an instruction advising or
encouraging the jury to exercise the power of nullification.
See Crease v. McKune, 189 F.3d 1188, 1194 (10th Cir.
1999) ("We note here that there is no right to jury
nullification."); United States v. Courtney,
816 F.3d 681, 686 (10th Cir. 2016); United States v.
Bith, 164 F.3d 1323, 1339 (10th Cir. 1999) ("To the
extent the defendant's appeal seeks to permit jury
nullification, the law is clear: a criminal defendant is not
entitled to have the jury instructed that it can, despite
finding the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,
disregard the law." (citing United States v.
Grismore, 546 F.2d 844, 849 (10th Cir. 1976))). In
United States v. Gonzalez, the Tenth Circuit framed
the power of nullification as contrary to the juror's
oath, and stated that "[w]hile we recognize that a jury
may render a verdict at odds with the evidence or the law,
neither the court nor counsel should encourage jurors to
violate their oath." 596 F.3d 1228, 1237 (10th Cir.
2010) (quoting United States v. Trujillo, 714 F.2d
102, 106 (11th Cir. 1983)). Therefore, Defendants are not
entitled to instruct the jury that it may disregard the law.
Defendants are Not Entitled to a Jury Instruction on
also request that the Court instruct the jury about the
potential sentencing consequences. However, "it is
firmly established that when the jury has no sentencing
function, as was the case here, it 'should reach its
verdict without regard to what sentence might be
imposed.'" United States v. Courtney, 816
F.3d 681, 686 (10th Cir. 2016), quoting in part Rogers v.
United States, 422 U.S. 35, 40, 95 S.Ct. 2091, 45
L.Ed.2d 1 (1975).
jury's function is to find the facts and to decide
whether, on those facts, the defendant is guilty of the crime
charged." Shannon v. United States, 512 U.S.
573, 579 (1994). Sentencing information is, therefore,
irrelevant to the jury's function unless Congress has
indicated a statutory intent for the jury to consider
sentencing. See, e.g., United States v. Parrish, 925
F.2d 1293, 1299 (10th Cir. 1991) ("Unless a statute
specifically requires jury participation in determining
punishment, the jury shall not be informed of the possible
penalties."). The Tenth Circuit has stated: "The
authorities are unequivocal in holding that presenting
information to the jury about possible sentencing is
prejudicial .... Absent a statutory requirement that the jury
participate in the sentencing decision, nothing is left
'for jury determination beyond the guilt or innocence of
an accused.'" United States v. Greer, 620
F.2d 1383, 1384-85 (10th Cir. 1980) (citing Rogers v.
United States, 422 U.S. 35, 40 (1975); Chapman v.
United States, 443 F.2d 917, 920 (10th Cir. 1971)).
Thus, "[i]t is well established that when a jury has no
sentencing function, it should be admonished to 'reach
its verdict without regard to what sentence might be
imposed.'" Shannon, 512 U.S. at 579
(citingRogers, 422 U.S. at 40).
Defendants do not point to any statute requiring jury
participation in sentencing for these charges. Therefore,
instructing the jury on the consequences of sentencing is
improper in this case.
reasons above, the Court finds that Defendants' Motion to
Preserve Right to Jury Trial is not supported by the current
law of the Tenth Circuit, and the Court rejects the proposed
IS THEREFORE ORDERED that Defendants' Motion to
Preserve Right to Jury Trial (Doc. 34) is hereby
DENIED for reasons ...