Submitted: February 14, 2019
from United States District Court for the Western District of
Missouri - Kansas City
SMITH, Chief Judge, BENTON and STRAS, Circuit Judges.
BENTON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
bench trial, Terreall A. McDaniel was convicted of possession
with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana, in violation
of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(C), (b)(1)(D) and
851; possession of a firearm in relation to a drug
trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
924(c)(1)(A)(i) and (C)(i); and being a felon in possession
of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§
922(g)(1) and 924(e)(1). The district court sentenced him to
622 months' imprisonment. He appeals the conviction and
sentence. Having jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291,
this court affirms.
believes the district court erred in admitting expert
testimony without a Daubert hearing. This court
reviews the "decision to admit expert testimony for
abuse of discretion, giving substantial deference to the
district court." David E. Watson, P.C. v. United
States, 668 F.3d 1008, 1014 (8th Cir. 2012). "The
main purpose of Daubert exclusion is to protect
juries from being swayed by dubious scientific
testimony." In re Zurn Pex Plumbing Prods. Liab.
Litig., 644 F.3d 604, 613 (8th Cir. 2011). There is
"less need" for this "gatekeeping
function" in bench trials. Id. See Watson, 668
F.3d at 1015 (same). In fact, "[t]here is no requirement
that the [d]istrict [c]ourt always hold a Daubert
hearing prior to qualifying an expert witness under Federal
Rule of Evidence 702." United States v. Geddes,
844 F.3d 983, 991 (8th Cir. 2017) (alterations in original).
trial, the government sought to introduce the expert
testimony of Kansas City, Missouri Police Officer Detective
Don Stanze. He testified generally that quantity and
packaging indicate whether drugs are intended for personal
use or trafficking. He opined that in this case, the cocaine
was "individually packaged for sale," the ecstacy
pills were intended for sale, and the marijuana "well
exceeds what anybody would possess for the purpose of
use." He also testified generally: (1) "drug
scales, other packaging, firearms, U.S. currency, [and] cell
phones" are "tools of the trade" for
"drug distribution;" (2) dealers often package
drugs in "ready-for-sale" baggies; (3) dealers use
firearms to protect their drugs and money; and (4) dealers
often use borrowed vehicles and aliases to avoid law
asserts the court improperly relied on Detective Stanze's
testimony because it lacked "scientific method."
But Federal Rule of Evidence 702 does not require this.
Rather, it allows testimony from "[a] witness who is
qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience,
training, or education" if "the expert's
scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will
help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to
determine a fact in issue." Fed. R. Evid.
702(a). Detective Stanze had knowledge, skill,
experience, and training sufficient to qualify him as an
expert in drug trafficking. See Adams v. Toyota Motor
Corp., 867 F.3d 903, 916 (8th Cir. 2017) (noting that an
expert opinion "need not be a scientific absolute in
order to be admissible" (internal quotation marks
omitted)). During his 22 years in law enforcement, he made
over 500 drug purchases (both user and dealer quantities);
executed over 200 search warrants; participated in over 100
drug interviews or proffers; received ongoing training about
drug trafficking; and taught at the regional academy on
"drugs, narcotics, and narcotics trends in the Kansas
City area." Significantly, he has testified as a
drug-trafficking expert in federal court about 25 times.
"[T]he district court did not abuse its discretion in
permitting the testimony, which was based on the
specialist's experience and training." United
States v. Carter, 205 F.3d 1348, at *2 (8th Cir. 1999).
See Geddes, 844 F.3d at 991 (holding no abuse of
discretion in "the district court's decision not to
hold a Daubert hearing" and to allow a member
of a human-trafficking task force with 14 years of experience
to testify "on the operation of sex trafficking rings
and the terms used therein"); United States v.
Evans, 272 F.3d 1069, 1094 (8th Cir. 2001) ("There
is no requirement that the District Court always hold a
Daubert hearing prior to qualifying an expert
witness under Federal Rule of Evidence 702, and the Court did
not abuse its discretion in finding the proposed testimony of
Sergeant Schmidt to be both reliable and relevant, and in
allowing that testimony.").
contends the district court erred in denying his motions for
judgment of acquittal because the evidence was insufficient
to convict on: Count Two- possession of a firearm (a Smith
& Wesson) in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime
(possession with intent to distribute cocaine); Count
Three-felon in possession of a firearm (a Smith &
Wesson); and Count Five-possession of a firearm (a Walther)
in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime (possession with
intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana). This court
reviews "the sufficiency of the evidence after a bench
trial in the light most favorable to the verdict, upholding
the verdict if a reasonable factfinder could find the offense
proved beyond a reasonable doubt." United States v.
Iqbal, 869 F.3d 627, 629-30 (8th Cir. 2017).
Counts Two and Three, McDaniel believes the evidence was
insufficient to show that the Smith & Wesson was a
"firearm" under 18 U.S.C. §
921(a)(3)(A) because it was destroyed before trial.
This belief is without merit. The government introduced the
following evidence to show the Smith & Wesson was a
firearm under § 921(a)(3)(A): (1) eyewitness testimony
from Trooper Aaron Engelhart-the Missouri State Highway
Patrol Trooper who seized the Smith & Wesson-opining that
it was a "firearm," loaded with live ammunition;
(2) photographs of the Smith & Wesson (including its
serial number); (3) dash cam footage with statements from
McDaniel that, "They're about to find the gun and
shit;" and (4) the opinion of ATF Special Agent Matthew
Wilson that, based on pictures and a description, the object
was a "firearm." This was sufficient to show the
Smith & Wesson was a firearm as defined in §
921(a)(3)(A). See United States v. Dobbs, 449 F.3d
904, 911 (8th Cir. 2006) ("[W]ithout a firearm in
evidence and without expert opinions based on analysis of the
firearm, lay testimony from eyewitnesses can be sufficient to
support a finding that an object is, in fact, a firearm under
§ 921(a)(3)(A)."). See also United States v.
Davis, 668 F.3d 576, 577 (8th Cir. 2012) (holding that
this court has "consistently held that proof the firearm
was operable is not required because the plain language of
§ 921(a)(3) requires only that the weapon . . . is
designed to . . . expel a projectile by the action of an
explosive" (internal quotation marks omitted)).
Counts Two and Five, McDaniel believes the evidence was
insufficient to show a nexus between possession of the
firearm and the drug-trafficking crimes. This belief also is
without merit. "To establish that a defendant possessed
a firearm in violation of § 924(c), the Government must
prove that (1) he committed a drug trafficking crime, and (2)
he possessed a firearm in furtherance of that crime."
United States v. Robinson, 617 F.3d 984, 988 (8th
Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted). "To
satisfy the 'in furtherance of' element, of §
924(c), the government must present evidence from which a
reasonable [trier of fact] could find . . . [the] possession
had the effect of furthering, advancing or helping forward
the drug crime." Id. (some internal quotation
Count Two, the government introduced evidence establishing a
nexus between McDaniel's possession of the Smith &
Wesson and possession with intent to distribute cocaine: (1)
he was the driver and sole occupant of the PT Cruiser where
Trooper Engelhart found 22 baggies of cocaine, marijuana, two
digital scales, and a loaded Smith & Wesson; and (2) the
dash cam recorded him saying "It's over for me"
and "They're about to find the gun and shit."
On Count Five, the government introduced evidence
establishing a nexus between possession of the Walther and
possession with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana:
(1) he was the driver and sole occupant of a Hyundai Tiburon
that fled from officers at high speeds before crashing on the
side of a road; (2) after crashing, he attempted to flee the
scene on foot; (3) when caught, he gave a false name; and (4)
and a search of the Tiburon revealed 10 individually wrapped
bags of cocaine, 11 bags "containing colorful
pills," a grinder, an electronic scale, over 1, 000
grams of marijuana, and a loaded Walther. This evidence was
sufficient to support the convictions. See United States
v. McDaniel, 838 F.3d 955, 957 (8th Cir. ...