United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit
Evidence – relevance — undue prejudice
In a methamphetamine prosecution, evidence of drug violence generally was properly admitted, even though the defendant was not charged with any act of violence.
“We find unconvincing Ramirez-Fuentes’s argument that the district court should have excluded Agent Johnson’s testimony about drug trafficking under Rule 403 because it caused jurors to associate Ramirez-Fuentes with violent behavior. Agent Johnson’s discussion of the relationship between guns and drugs, during which time he referenced the violence that is part of the drug trade, was highly probative of Ramirez-Fuentes’s guilt on the firearm possession charge and any potential for prejudice was slight. Ramirez-Fuentes’s reliance on United States v. Smith, 400 F. App’x 96 (7th Cir. 2010), in support of his argument is misplaced. He asserts that in Smith, this court admonished generalized comments linking a defendant to a broader drug trade and the violence associated with that drug trade. But Smith is a sentencing case in which the district court recited numerous irrelevant facts outside the record regarding the repercussions of the drug trade in the United States and Mexico. Id. at 98-99. In this case, Agent Johnson’s only reference to violence came during a discussion about the connection between guns and drugs. And at no point did the government blame Ramirez-Fuentes ‘for issues of broad local, national, and international scope.’ Id. at 99. Consequently, we find that the district court did not err in allowing Agent Johnson to testify about the violence that leads individuals to use guns to protect their drugs.”
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Simon, J., Flaum, J.