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United States v. Davis

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

June 24, 2016

United States of America, Plaintiff- Appellee,
Matthew Davis, Defendant-Appellant.

          Submitted: November 17, 2015

         Appeal from United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri - Kansas City

          Before COLLOTON, GRUENDER, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.

          COLLOTON, Circuit Judge.

         Matthew Davis was prosecuted for conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine. At the close of the government's evidence, Davis moved for a judgment of acquittal, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to convict him. The district court[1] denied the motion, and a jury found him guilty. Davis appeals the sufficiency of the evidence. He also contends for the first time on appeal that the district court erred in refusing a proposed jury instruction concerning his defense that he merely engaged in a buyer-seller relationship. We conclude that there was sufficient evidence to support the conviction, and that Davis waived his objection to the jury instructions. We therefore affirm.


         Davis was charged with conspiring to distribute heroin and cocaine between January 2002 and February 2012. See 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 846. The indictment alleged that Davis obtained heroin and cocaine from Timothy Kirlin and distributed the drugs to others. Davis and Kirlin were tried jointly in a seven-day jury trial. Because Davis challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support the verdict, we set forth the prosecution's evidence in some detail.

         The government's theory was that Kirlin obtained heroin and other drugs in Texas and ran a drug distribution network in Kansas City, Missouri, over ten years. The government presented testimony from several co-conspirators who pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with law enforcement. Multiple witnesses testified that they aided Kirlin by driving him to conduct drug transactions, and that Kirlin often carried large quantities of heroin and cut smaller pieces for sale in the presence of his buyers.

         Spencer Woodard testified that he partnered with Kirlin to sell a variety of drugs, including heroin and cocaine. Woodard said that Davis bought drugs from him or Kirlin about five days a week beginning in 2002. Erica Crofoot similarly testified that Davis bought heroin and cocaine from her and Kirlin on multiple occasions starting in 2002 and continuing for "many years after that."

         When Woodard and Kirlin learned that Davis received monthly payments of approximately $6, 000 from a trust fund, they viewed him as "a very attractive customer" and began providing him a large amount of drugs on credit. Davis ran up significant debts in some months; at one point, Kirlin and Woodard sold some of Davis's furniture to satisfy his debt. Woodard explained that his relationship with Davis was "[t]o sell him drugs and basically use him for his money."

         Roxanne Bertram testified that she sometimes saw Davis driving Kirlin around. Once when Bertram approached Kirlin to buy heroin, Kirlin had no supply and referred her to Davis. Davis arranged to pool his money with Bertram's and give it to one Brad Gabler, who obtained heroin for the three from another supplier.

         Woodard testified that he observed Davis sharing drugs with other people. He saw Davis inject Fran Gershon with a variety of drugs, and observed Davis share drugs with Daniel Yousef, Greg Champion, and a couple known as Aaron and Georgia. Woodard said that Davis would give drugs to "anybody that was around . . . when he was partying or had people at his house, " and that "one of the attractions that all these drug users had was that [Davis] had a lot of money and had a lot of drugs and he was willing to share them." Crofoot testified that she and Kirlin had been to Davis's apartment a few times and that there was "constant drug use" each time. She herself obtained cocaine and heroin from Davis.

         The jury also heard evidence that Davis distributed drugs to Amber McGathey. Woodard observed McGathey at Davis's apartment in late May 2004, lying on a couch and snoring loudly. Woodard thought McGathey looked pale and asked Davis if she was all right. Davis replied that he and McGathey had been partying. Davis called Woodard the next morning and told him that McGathey was not breathing. A day or two later, Davis informed Woodard that McGathey had died and asked for help in disposing of her body. Davis later loaded McGathey's body into his Jeep and left it there for several days before his attorney alerted the police. In a special interrogatory, however, the jury found that Davis's distribution of drugs was not a but-for cause of McGathey's death.

         In his defense, Davis offered testimony from Mark Reeder, a private investigator who interviewed Kirlin before the trial. According to Reeder, Kirlin said that Davis was not involved in the drug conspiracy. Kirlin told Reeder that Davis did not sell drugs for Kirlin and was merely a drug user. Kirlin asserted that Davis had purchased user quantities of drugs from him. Kirlin denied that Davis either drove him around town with drugs or accompanied him to Texas to obtain drugs.

         The district court denied Davis's motion for judgment of acquittal at the close of the government's case. The jury then convicted Davis of conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine. The district court sentenced Davis to a term of 360 months' ...

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