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United States v. Carter

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

August 27, 2018, Argued and Submitted, Pasadena, California; November 2, 2018, Filed

No. 16-50271

Opinion

 [*1202]  BYBEE, Circuit Judge:

Laron Carter was tried and convicted on seven counts of violating 18 U.S.C. § 1591, and seven counts of violating 18 U.S.C. § 2423(a), based on his trafficking and prostitution of seven minor girls. During Carter's trial, one of the victims, J.C., testified against him from Minnesota by two-way video, as she was seven months pregnant and unable to travel. Carter contends that permitting J.C. to testify against him remotely by two-way video, rather than in person, violated his Sixth Amendment right to confront the witnesses against him.

We agree. ] Criminal defendants have a right to "physical, face-to-face confrontation at trial," and that right cannot be compromised by the use of a remote video procedure unless [**3]  it is "necessary" to do so and "the reliability of the testimony is otherwise assured." Maryland v. Craig, 497 U.S. 836, 850, 110 S. Ct. 3157, 111 L. Ed. 2d 666 (1990). Because alternatives were available for obtaining J.C.'s testimony that would have preserved Carter's right to physical confrontation, the use of a remote video procedure was not necessary in this case. We therefore vacate Carter's convictions on the two counts involving J.C. and remand to the district court for resentencing on the remaining counts.3

Carter was convicted of forcing seven minor girls into prostitution and trafficking them across state lines. The crimes took place over a ten-year period from 2003 to 2013. For each of the seven victims, Carter was charged with one count of violating 18 U.S.C. § 1591 (sex trafficking  [*1203]  of a minor or by force, fraud, or coercion), and one count of violating 18 U.S.C. § 2423(a) (transportation of a minor in interstate commerce to engage in prostitution), for a total of fourteen counts.

One week before Carter's April 2016 trial, the government filed an ex parte application regarding the anticipated testimony of J.C., the victim for Counts 13 and 14. J.C., who was by then an adult living in Minnesota, was seven months pregnant with a due date in June. The government explained that J.C. had [**4]  been hospitalized for complications with her pregnancy and that her doctor had instructed her not to travel from Minnesota to California. Accordingly, the government sought either to take J.C.'s deposition in Minnesota pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 15, or to have her testify during trial from Minnesota via live two-way video conference. With respect to the out-of-court deposition, the government proposed that the parties would fly to Minnesota in the middle of trial and suggested that it would try to secure, but could not guarantee, Carter's physical attendance.

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907 F.3d 1199 *; 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 31119 **

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. LARON DARRELL CARTER, AKA Birdd, AKA Gardena Pimpin Birdd, AKA Garr Birdd, AKA Pi Birdd, AKA Pi Pimpin Birdd, Defendant-Appellant.

Subsequent History: Decision reached on appeal by, Remanded by United States v. Carter, 754 Fed. Appx. 534, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 31137 (9th Cir. Cal., Nov. 2, 2018)

US Supreme Court certiorari denied by Carter v. United States, 2019 U.S. LEXIS 4274 (U.S., June 24, 2019)

Prior History:  [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California. D.C. No. 2:14-cr-00297-VAP-1. Virginia A. Phillips, Chief Judge, Presiding.

Disposition: AFFIRMED IN PART, VACATED IN PART, AND REMANDED.

CORE TERMS

video, counts, two-way, confrontation, face-to-face, deposition, courtroom, witnesses, district court, convictions, remote, harmless, physical confrontation, right to confront, child witness, advertisement, prostitution, accuser, travel, physical presence, reasonable doubt, cross-examination, circumstances, reliability, testifying, sentence, cases, defendant's right, public policy, out-of-court

Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Criminal Process, Right to Confrontation, Criminal Law & Procedure, Trials, Defendant's Rights, Examination of Witnesses, Transmitted & Videotaped Testimony, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Witnesses, Presentation, Right to Public Trial, Bill of Rights, Criminal Process, Defendant's Rights, Evidence, Hearsay, Exceptions, Former Testimony of Unavailable Declarants, Statements as Evidence, Unavailability, Harmless & Invited Error, Constitutional Rights, Evidence