December 18, 2000
STATES V. WILLIAMS; NO. 00-3003; DECIDED DEC. 8, 2000
by Denise Ryan
of Expert; Motion for New Trial; Outcome No Different
D.C. Circuit held that a defendant was not entitled to a new trial based on the
perjury of one of the government's experts, which was discovered after the
trial, because the outcome of the trial would not have been different.
Gregory Williams was arrested, he had 87 small plastic bags of heroin in his
possession and 638 small plastic bags of heroin in his car. Williams was tried
on a charge of possession with intent to distribute heroin. One of the
government's witnesses, Detective Johnny Brown, answered questions about his
qualifications as an expert and claimed that he was a pharmacist. The trial
court qualified him as an expert and he testified that the number of bags of
heroin that Williams had in his possession would not have been for personal use.
The jury convicted Williams.
the conviction, Williams' attorney discovered that Brown was not a pharmacist,
which the prosecution also did not know. Williams filed a motion for a new trial
under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33.
The trial court denied the motion and Williams appealed.
court noted that Rule 33 merely states that a
new trial may be granted if justice so requires, but there is no specific
standard relating to the newly discovered evidence that perjury has occurred.
The court rejected the standard in Larrison v. United States, 24 F.2d 82
(7th Cir. 1929), that a new trial is required for perjured testimony if the jury
might have reached a different conclusion, because it addressed only what might
have happened rather than what would likely have occurred.
court stated that United States v. Thompson, 188 F.2d 652
(D.C. Cir. 1951), is the standard for Rule 33
motions, and in this case the court determined that it would join the other
circuits in rejecting Larrison. The court found Thompson to be the more
appropriate test when the prosecution was unaware of the perjury by its witness
until after trial because it looks ahead and evaluates the outcome of a new
trial. The court applied Thompson and found that if Williams were retried, the
outcome of the trial would not be different, and therefore the court affirmed
the judgment of the trial court.
A. Raymond Randolph's opinion was joined by Judges Stephen Williams and David