Upon a defendant's motion filed within three years of a guilty verdict, a district court may order a new trial on the ground of newly discovered evidence if the interest of justice so requires. Fed. R. Crim. P. 33. Motions for a new trial on the basis of after-discovered evidence are to be granted with the greatest of caution. Courts have historically viewed recantation testimony with great suspicion. Consequently, courts have proven particularly reluctant to grant such motions where the newly discovered evidence consists of a witness recantation.
Deryck Jackson was convicted after a jury trial on one count of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, and three counts of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, and of aiding and abetting the same. The District Court for the District of the Virgin Islands sentenced Jackson to a 75-month term of imprisonment to be followed by four years of supervised release and levied both a $400 special assessment and a $400 fine. It found that the evidence was overwhelming as to the number of witnesses, corroborating testimony, and physical evidence such that the jury's verdict would most likely have been the same without the challenged testimony. He appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in denying his motions for a new trial under Fed. R. Crim. P. 33 based on newly discovered evidence and that the prosecutor's failure to correct false testimony deprived him of his due process right to a fair trial.
Was Jackson entitled to a new trial?
The court agreed with all of the trial court’s findings and affirmed the conviction. The court stated that irrespective of the case to which the trial court cited in support of its holding, its articulation of the standard for assessing the likely impact on the jury's verdict was consistent with Iannelli. Thus, the trial court employed the proper legal standard. The trial court correctly conducted a credibility determination as part of its inquiry, and it properly regarded the purported recantations with a healthy measure of skepticism. It was not required to hold an evidentiary hearing before ruling on the motions for a new trial. Next, defendant's due process rights had not been violated. The trial court concluded that defendant had produced no competent evidence tending to show that the prosecution had procured its conviction through active misconduct and impropriety, including perjurious testimony.