U.S. v. McCaleb, No. 06-50387 (1-13-09). Verdict forms can be confusing. Defendant faced drug charges for running a clandestine meth lab. Defendant conceded count two (precursor drug possession) but argued for a lesser on the conspiracy charge. The jury returned a verdict form that checked both the greater charge and lesser. The court, without objection, sent the jury back, with a clean verdict form, after explaining the ambiguity. The jury came back with the guilty verdict on the greater. The 9th (Bright joined by Trott and Hawkins) affirmed, finding that court acted properly to clear up the confusion and in reconvening the jury, did not coerce them. The 9th also found no error in the jury instructions, nor in the admission of "expert" testimony by a DEA chemist on the yield of PCP from such clandestine labs (a conservation 25% yield from chemicals).
U.S. v. Shelby, No. 07-30183 (1-15-09). Marital aid is fine, so long as it does not lead to conflicts of interest, and violation of 18 U.S.C. 208, false statements, and wire fraud. The defendant was a manager in Bonneville Power Administration, which is a federal agency that produces and transmits power throughout the Northwest. The agency had a contract with a software company. Defendant is married, and she approached the company about hiring her husband, who was a salesman, and he was assigned to the Bonneville account. This starts the conflicts of interests, because she pushed for extensive use of the software and excused performance issues. Charged and convicted, she appeals, arguing that there was insufficient evidence. The 9th, in a per curiam opinion, affirms, holding that "conflict" is read broadly, and the evidence here was sufficient to show there was conflicts of interest, even if the contract had been entered into previously. The conflict was also material.