Fed. R. Crim. P. 8(b) provides that two or more defendants may be charged in the same indictment or information if they are alleged to have participated in the same act or transaction or in the same series of acts or transactions constituting an offense or offenses. The court reviews a district court's denial of a motion for severance under the abuse of discretion standard. When defendants are charged with a conspiracy, there is a presumption that they will be tried together.
Fed. R. Evid. 1003 allows duplicates to be introduced in the same manner as originals "unless (1) a genuine question is raised as to the authenticity of the original or (2) in the circumstances it would be unfair to admit the duplicate in lieu of the original." This rule allows photocopies to be introduced in lieu of the original documents unless there is a genuine challenge to the authenticity of the document.
After receiving a call about laboratory equipment and an unpleasant odor in a rented house, the police searched the premises with the owner. They began an undercover investigation. Defendants purchased glassware and chemicals from undercover agents who found drug related materials and a handgun in defendants' hotel room. Defendants were convicted of conspiracy to manufacture and intent to manufacture methamphetamine. They appealed, arguing that the district court erred by denying their motions for acquittal and severance, in determining their sentences under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual, and by violating the best evidence rule by admitting photographs.
Was the denial for acquittal and severance proper?
The court affirmed and held that there was sufficient evidence for the jury to find a single conspiracy. Therefore, the motions for acquittal were properly denied. The district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion for severance of the trials because there was no prejudice. Although the best evidence rule applied to the government's photographs, because the government sought to prove the contents, they were properly admitted as duplicates under Fed. R. Evid. 1003.