Sunday, November 18, 2007

To Life!

United States v. Freeman, No. 05-5529-cr (2d Cir. November 14, 2007) (Straub, Katzmann, Parker, CJJ)

Michael Freeman was convicted of drug trafficking, robbery and gun possession, but acquitted of two homicide counts. The district court nevertheless imposed a life sentence, based on its preponderance finding that Freeman committed the murders of which he was acquitted.

The court rejected various challenges to the sentence. It held - again - that the statutory maximum for violating 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) is life, thus the life sentence was legal. It also held that the district court had complied with the circuit’s requirement that it “consider” the acquittal, and that the district court properly found that Freeman himself committed the murders.

Freeman also challenged an evidentiary ruling. At trial, the court admitted a redacted version of his confession that contained only the inculpatory part, but omitted exculpatory statements suggesting that some of his actions constituted self defense. Freeman had objected to this, citing the so-called “rule of completeness,” Fed.R.Evid. 106. The circuit affirmed, agreeing with the district court that the redacted portion, which dealt with what occurred during the robbery, neither explained the admitted portion, which dealt with the planning of the robbery, nor placed it in context.

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