For many of those who may be facing federal drug charges, the rules concerning courtroom behavior may seem complicated and confusing. Lawyers and judges are bound by certain rules that must be obeyed, and when those rules are not obeyed, appeals courts can intervene. This was the case when a California federal appeals court threw out a drug trafficking conviction because of a San Diego prosecutor's statement to jurors.
During this particular trial, a federal prosecutor made comments to the jury suggesting that, if they acquitted the defendant, it would send a message to other people that drug runners would not be punished for smuggling as long as they claimed that they were being threatened by Mexican cartels. The defendant in this case had been convicted last year of drug trafficking and sent to prison. He had testified that he had committed the crime of driving drugs into the U.S. because Mexican drug cartel members had threatened to harm his family if he refused.
On Nov. 1, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the man's conviction, ruling that the prosecutor's remarks were improper because they were designed to invoke fears and a sense of vulnerability in the jury. Because of the court's ruling, the case will be returned to the trial court.
This ruling underscores how important it is that California residents who are faced with federal charges know their rights. When dealing with a complex legal system, individuals who do not have aggressive representation may fall prey to improper courtroom antics meant to mislead a jury. Anyone charged with federal drug crimes is entitled to protection under the law, and those individuals often benefit from seeking out experienced legal counsel that is familiar with the intricate nature of federal-level crimes.
Source: sfgate.com, "Appeals court tosses drug runner conviction," Nov. 2, 2011