Relevance; prejudice; mistrials
A mistrial was not required even though the jury heard inadmissible evidence concerning the possible penalties the defendant was facing.
“We review the district court’s denial of Powell’s motion for a mistrial for an abuse of discretion. United States v. Collins, 604 F.3d 481, 489 (7th Cir. 2010). A mistrial is appropriate when ‘an event during trial has a real likelihood of preventing a jury from evaluating the evidence fairly and accurately, so that the defendant has been deprived of a fair trial.’ United States v. Tanner, 628 F.3d 890, 898 (7th Cir. 2010), quoting Collins, 604 F.3d at 489. In light of the district court’s actions in sustaining the objection and instructing the jury to disregard the irrelevant information, we are confident that this testimony had no such effect on the jury. In essence, Powell’s argument is that he was irrevocably prejudiced because the jury learned that the penalties that he faced for the two charged sales were relatively small when compared to the prison time Powell would have faced had he not been apprehended before he could sell more drugs. But the connection between the quantity of drugs sold and the sentence imposed is unlikely to surprise any person competent to serve on a jury. The jury was not rendered unable to deliberate fairly on the merits of Powell’s case merely because it heard and was told to disregard this legal truism. The district court acted well within its discretion by denying Powell’s motion for a mistrial and relying instead on a curative instruction. See, e.g., United States v. Ferguson, 935 F.2d 1518, 1528 (7th Cir. 1991) (holding that curative instruction was sufficient to guarantee defendant a fair trial, rendering a mistrial inappropriate).”
10-2535 U.S. v. Powell
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, Reagan, J., Hamilton, J.