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United States v. Joyner

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

February 22, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
KEENAN JOYNER, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida D.C. Docket No. 1:16-cr-20316-MGC-1

          Before MARCUS, FAY and HULL, Circuit Judges.

          HULL, Circuit Judge

         Defendant Keenan Jermaine Joyner appeals his conviction and sentence after a jury found him guilty of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. On appeal, defendant Joyner argues that the district court's supplemental jury instruction did not adequately address the jury's question about possession of a firearm. Joyner also contends that the district court erred in concluding that his prior Florida convictions for attempted strong arm robbery and resisting an officer with violence are "violent felonies" under the Armed Career Criminal Act ("ACCA"). After careful review, and with the benefit of oral argument, we affirm.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On May 6, 2016, a federal grand jury indicted defendant Joyner on one count of possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) & 924(e)(1). Joyner pled not guilty, and the case proceeded to a jury trial beginning on August 29, 2016.

         A. Evidence at Trial

         At trial, the government presented four witnesses: Detective Martin Garcia, Detective Dustin James, crime scene technician Andrea Amy, and crime lab analyst Hali Meyer.

         Detective Garcia testified as follows. Garcia and other officers were conducting surveillance on a particular car, in connection with an ongoing investigation.[1] Defendant Joyner was not the registered owner of the car, and was not a subject of the ongoing investigation.

         On the day in question, Detective Garcia and other officers were covertly observing the subject car, which was parked in a lot adjacent to a convenience store and laundromat. One of the observing officers, Detective Dustin James, was the "eyeball" of the surveillance team, meaning that he maintained visual contact with the car at all times. Garcia testified that when Detective James, the "eyeball, " told the other officers over the radio that the car appeared to be occupied, all of the officers, including Garcia, began moving toward the car from their various positions.

         As Detective Garcia approached, he saw two people standing in front of the car, one of whom was defendant Joyner. When Joyner realized that police officers were approaching him, he ran from the front of the car to the driver's side door. Joyner was "about 20, 25 feet" away from Garcia. At that point, Garcia saw a firearm in Joyner's left hand, "as if he was withdrawing it from his waistband." Garcia testified he was "[a]bsolutely 100 percent" certain he saw a firearm in Joyner's left hand.

         Detective Garcia testified that when Joyner reached the driver's side door, he spun around, opened the door, dropped to one knee, and "slides the gun underneath the seat." Garcia did not see which hand Joyner used to open the car door. However, as far as Garcia could tell, the gun was in Joyner's left hand at all times.

         Detective Garcia immediately radioed the code "55" to the other officers, which told the officers that a gun was present. The detectives moved in, and Joyner was "taken down." Approximately one minute later, after Joyner was in custody, Garcia looked inside the car and saw a firearm underneath the driver's seat. Later, when the firearm was collected from the scene, it was found to contain an ammunition magazine with eight live projectile cartridges.

         The government's second eyewitness, Detective Dustin James, was the "eyeball." James testified that the car was parked in front of the laundromat and backed into a parking space, such that James's vantage point was from the front of the car. At a certain point, James saw two men, one of whom was Joyner, walking towards the car. One of the men-the one who was not Joyner-opened a car door on the passenger side and started loading bins of laundry into the car. The other man-Joyner-remained in front of the car, "basically looking around."

         When Detective James saw Joyner and the other individual occupy the car, James radioed the other officers to take both men into custody. The officers converged on the car. James testified that as the officers approached the car, he saw defendant Joyner move from the front of the car to the driver's side and open the driver's side door. James heard Detective Garcia scream "55" as Joyner opened the door, which James understood to mean a gun was present. However, because Joyner's back was to James as Joyner opened the car door, James never saw a gun in Joyner's hand. James did not know which hand Joyner used to open the car door, but James "assum[ed]" that Joyner used his left hand. James testified that he never saw Joyner bend down or put anything under the driver's seat. The government's third witness, crime scene technician Andrea Amy, testified that she did not find any fingerprints on the gun or ammunition magazine recovered from the car. However, Amy explained that "many factors" can affect whether a fingerprint is left on an item. Amy further testified that after testing for fingerprints, she collected DNA swabs from the gun, the magazine, and the eight live projectile cartridges. The swabs were then sent to the county DNA lab for analysis.[2]

         The government's last witness, crime lab analyst Hali Meyer, testified that she tested the DNA swabs taken from the gun and magazine, but was unable to confirm that Joyner's DNA was present. Meyer testified that there are "a lot of reasons" DNA might not be left behind after a person handles an object.

         Joyner did not present any witnesses. The parties stipulated that Joyner had a previous felony conviction and that the firearm he allegedly possessed affected interstate or foreign commerce. Thus, the only contested issue was whether Joyner possessed the firearm.

         B. The Jury Charge

         After the close of evidence, the district court excused the jury while the parties discussed the proposed jury instructions. Among other things, the parties agreed to remove instructions concerning "several kinds of possession" and "constructive possession, " but to leave in instructions regarding "actual possession" and "sole possession."

         When the jury returned, the district court issued the instructions to the jury. The district court gave the charge verbally and in writing to the jury. In relevant part, on page 10, the charge instructed that the government had to prove defendant Joyner "knowingly possessed" the firearm, stating:

It's a Federal crime for anyone who has been convicted of a felony offense to possess a firearm and/or ammunition in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce.
The Defendant can be found guilty of this crime only if all the following facts are proved beyond a reasonable doubt:
(1)the Defendant knowingly possessed a firearm and/or ammunition in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce; and
(2)before possessing the firearm and/or ammunition, the Defendant had been convicted of a felony - a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than one year.

(emphasis added).

         On page 11 of the charge, the district court instructed the jury about actual and sole possession, stating:

"Actual possession" of a thing occurs if a person knowingly has direct physical ...

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