New York Federal Criminal Practice Blog
May 12, 2010

Second Circuit Reverses Drug Conspiracy Conviction on Grounds of Insufficient Evidence

United States v. Torres, 2010 WL 1790220 (2d Cir .May 5, 2010), is one of those rare cases in which the Court has reversed the defendant’s drug conspiracy conviction on the grounds of insufficient evidence.  While there was evidence that Torres knew or should have suspected that he was participating in something illicit – “especially the facts that Torres undertook to receive heavy and bulky packages on the street, which were addressed to him at a building with which he had no apparent connection” – the record was lacking “any evidence that Torres knew the Packages contained narcotics.”

There was, for example, no cooperating witness testifying at trial. There was no evidence of any drug records implicating him. The cocaine was well concealed and not visible. There was no proof of any narcotics-related conversation to which Torres was a party . . . [T]he government presented no evidence as to the nature of Torres's associations with the persons who shipped the cocaine or with the persons who expected to distribute it. There was no evidence of a sizeable payment to Torres that might reflect an expectation related to the million-dollar street value of the cocaine . . . Nor was there evidence that Torres was placed in a position of trust . . . Torres was never in a position to be alone with the Packages until the driver of the minivan fled the mall upon spotting the police surveillance. This record does not lend itself to an inference that Torres was so trusted that he must have known that he was dealing with narcotics.

Lawyers:  Edward Zas (Federal Defenders, Inc.); AUSAs Nicholas L. McQuaid, Michael D. Maimin

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