Law School Case Brief
United States v. Evans - 970 F.2d 663 (10th Cir. 1992)
To prove conspiracy, the government must show that: (1) two or more persons agreed to violate the law; (2) the defendant knew at least the essential objectives of the conspiracy; (3) the defendant knowingly and voluntarily became a part of it, and; (4) the alleged coconspirators were interdependent. By necessity, the government may establish these elements by direct or circumstantial evidence.
On March 7, 1990, defendants Donald B.W. Evans, Jr., his brother Dominic Evans, Diana J. Brice, James E. Joubert, and Perry Roberts III were indicted for conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of cocaine base ("crack") in violation of 21 U.S.C.S. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A)(iii) and 846. The government contended that these individuals were involved in an elaborate drug distribution network. The indictment generally alleged a conspiratorial agreement with the following parameters: (i) the conspiracy began in early 1987 and continued through March 7, 1990; (ii) the conspiracy involved at least 10 individuals; (iii) the objective of the conspiracy was to distribute crack cocaine, and; (iv) the objective was accomplished by transporting powder cocaine from California to the Northern District of Oklahoma, converting it into crack cocaine, and distributing the crack cocaine. On May 30, 1990, a jury in federal district court found defendants guilty of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute crack cocaine. The district court then reluctantly sentenced defendants to long-term imprisonment in accordance with the Sentencing Guidelines. Donald Evans was sentenced to a life term of imprisonment without parole; Dominic Evans was sentenced to a 295-month term of imprisonment; Joubert was sentenced to a 210-month term of imprisonment; Roberts was sentenced to a 292-month term of imprisonment; and Brice was sentenced to a 210-month term of imprisonment. Defendants appealed, raising the question of whether the government presented sufficient evidence to connect defendants to a single conspiracy.
Did the government present sufficient evidence to connect defendants to a single conspiracy?
According to the appellate court, in order to prove conspiracy, the government must show that two or more persons agreed to violate the law, that the defendant knew at least the essential objectives of the conspiracy, that the defendant knowingly and voluntarily became a part of it, and that the alleged coconspirators were interdependent. Taking these into consideration, the court concluded that the government presented sufficient evidence to establish a large conspiracy among a number of individuals to distribute crack cocaine in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and that it adequately established that Dominic Evans, Joubert, and Roberts joined that conspiracy. The court held that the government presented sufficient evidence from which to infer that these defendants agreed to violate 21 U.S.C.S. §§ 841 and 846. Specifically, the jurors heard testimony regarding frequent drug transactions among defendants and their coconspirators, as well as testimony regarding defendants' attendance at and sometimes participation in drug-related discussions. According to the court, the aforementioned evidence was sufficient to show that defendants had knowledge of the general nature and scope of the illegal enterprise and that they all shared the distribution objective. However, the court reversed the conviction of Diana Brice because the evidence did not establish that she shared in the common distribution objective of the conspiracy or agreed to participate in a conspiracy of such extensive scope as the one charged.
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