Monday, April 08, 2013

Clarifies Review for Sufficiency of the Evidence: Was Verdict Irrational?

United States v. Vargas-Ocampo, No. 11-41363 (Mar. 14, 2013) (Davis, Jones, Smith)

The panel clarified that the Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307 (1979), constitutional test for sufficiency of the evidence to uphold a conviction is simply "whether, viewing the evidence and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." The panel disavowed any language in previous Fifth Circuit cases that adds to this standard a caveat that if the evidence construed in favor of the verdict "gives equal or nearly equal circumstantial support to a theory of guilt and a theory of innocence, then the appellate court must reverse." The panel reiterated the importance of leaving fact-finding to the trier of fact and that the only question under Jackson is whether the verdict "was so insupportable as to fall below the threshold of bare rationality." The panel affirmed Vargas-Ocampo’s conviction for drug trafficking, finding the evidence was sufficient. The panel also affirmed the use of an aiding and abetting instruction since aiding and abetting is an implicit charge in every indictment.


Blogger Kristin (Connor) Kimmelman said...

Note: Petition for rehearing en banc granted. United States v. Vargas-Ocampo, No. 11-41363 (Sept. 26, 2013).

9/30/2013 09:43:00 AM  
Blogger Kristin (Connor) Kimmelman said...

On hearing this case en banc, the Fifth Circuit abandons the "equipoise rule" and affirm Vargas-Ocampo's conviction. United States v. Vargas-Ocampo, No. 41363 (Mar. 26, 2014).

4/17/2014 09:30:00 AM  

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