United States v. Gonzalez

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 05-13-2015
  • Case #: 13-50348
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: District Judge Smith for the Court; Circuit Judges Wardlaw and Berzon
  • Full Text Opinion

A court does not abuse its discretion by providing an additional instruction to ensure juror unanimity on all of the elements of conspiracy.

Lorenzo Gonzalez was a member of the 38th Street gang. Gonzalez was charged with “committing a violent crime in aid of a racketeering enterprise” (“VICAR”) for conspiring to murder a rival street gang member. The government presented wiretapped evidence at trial in which Gonzalez was communicating with different members of the 38th Street gang. Gonzalez presented jury instructions he wished the district court to use which asked the jurors to “‘unanimously agree upon the precise conspiracy to murder rival gang members which occurred.’” The district court chose not to present those instructions, but instead requested that the jury must “‘unanimously agree as to the person or persons who were the intended victims of the murder conspiracy.’” Gonzalez was subsequently convicted, and filed for a timely appeal. Gonzalez argued that the district court erred in instructing the jury to reach a unanimous verdict in regard to the VICAR offense. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit determined that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it did not choose to read Gonzalez’s jury instructions. The jurors were instructed to unanimously agree that the individuals Gonzalez was talking about were all potential victims of the conspiracy. The panel found that if the jury’s decision was unanimous on that instruction, then it would determine whether or not there was a crime of conspiracy on the murder of the rival gang members. Therefore, the panel concluded that the unanimity requirement had been satisfied through the jury instruction the district court read to the jury. AFFIRMED.

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