Thursday, November 14, 2013

United States v. Montgomery case brief

United States v. Montgomery case brief summary
468 F.3d 715 (2006)

CASE SYNOPSIS: A jury convicted defendant of growing 100 or more marijuana plants with the intent to distribute. The U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas granted defendant's motion for acquittal and vacated the jury's verdict for insufficiency of the evidence, and in the alternative, granted a new trial. The government appealed, seeking a reinstatement of the jury's verdict and a remand for sentencing.

  • The district court determined that for defendant to have been convicted under 21 U.S.C.S. § 841(b)(1)(B)(vii), the government had to prove that he intended to distribute from each of 100 or more marijuana plants, and that two "mother plants" could not be counted, leaving a total of only 99 plants. 
  • The district court's interpretation was not supported by the plain language of the statute; hence, the district court evaluated the evidence using an incorrect legal standard and came to an incorrect result. Instead of categorically excluding the mother plants from the base count because they were used for cloning, the district court should have considered whether the mother plants, as used for cloning purposes, contributed to the predicate § 841(a)(1) offense. 
  • The mother plants were a part of defendant's distribution enterprise and were a part of the predicate § 841(a)(1) offense--there was a causal connection. 
  • Because two mother plants could be counted, a reasonable jury could have found that defendant possessed with intent to distribute 101 marijuana plants. 
  • Because defendant never moved for a new trial, the district court lacked authority to grant a new trial.
CONCLUSION: The court reversed the judgment of the district court. The court reinstated the jury's verdict and remanded for sentencing.

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