Wednesday, June 23, 2021

US v. Velazquez, No. 19-50099 (6-23-21)(Paez w/Melgren; Bade dissenting). The 9th vacates a conviction and remands for prosecutorial misconduct in closing argument. This was a drug importation case with a “blind mule” defense. The majority summarizes the holding nicely: “During closing argument, the government compared the reasonable doubt standard to the confidence one needs to “hav[e] a meal” or “travel to . . . court”—without worrying about the “possib[ility]” that one will get sick or end up in an accident. Velazquez claims that this improper argument, and the district court’s failure to cure it, caused him prejudice. We agree.” (4).

Dissenting, Bade concedes the prosecutor’s comments were “unhelpful” and “potentially misleading.” However, she states the comments were taken out of context and the argument did not “infect” the trial unfairly. She would find any error harmless in light of the “overwhelming” record of guilt.

“No argument” that Carl Gunn, CJA, deserves congrats for the righteous win. 

The decision is here:


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