FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
MASSACHUSETTS Hon. William G. Young, U.S. District Judge
Benjamin Brooks, with whom Good Schneider Cormier & Fried
was on brief, for appellant.
Randall E. Kromm, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom
Andrew E. Lelling, United States Attorney, was on brief, for
Torruella, Kayatta, and Barron, Circuit Judges.
KAYATTA, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
a jury trial, Obinna Obiora was convicted of conspiracy to
possess with intent to distribute heroin, and was sentenced
to 120 months' imprisonment, followed by 36 months of
supervised release. On appeal, Obiora claims that a variety
of alleged errors undermined the integrity of the jury's
verdict and the appropriateness of his sentence. For the
following reasons, we affirm.
first address Obiora's challenge to the sufficiency of
the evidence against him. We describe the record relevant to
such a challenge in the light most favorable to the jury
verdict. See United States v. Burgos-Montes, 786
F.3d 92, 99 (1st Cir. 2015).
law enforcement officers became aware of Obiora through their
investigation of a Boston heroin dealer named Antoine. Agents
obtained approval to wiretap six phones associated with
Antoine's activities. In several of these intercepted
calls, Chukwuma Obiora -- Obinna Obiora's brother --
arranged for Obinna Obiora to supply heroin to
October 3, 2015, the day after one of these conversations, a
law enforcement agent observed a car registered to Obiora
arrive at Antoine's home. Pole camera footage showed a
man who resembled Obiora exit the car, embrace Antoine, and
then, with Antoine, disappear from view. Shortly thereafter,
the man resembling Obiora returned to the car and drove off.
Within about twenty minutes, Obiora called Antoine and
complained, "What just happened today is not necessary .
. . we don't need all that." For the next several
weeks, Obiora unsuccessfully tried to obtain payment from
Antoine, who apparently stiffed Obiora somehow in connection
with their October 3 interaction.
federal government indicted Obiora for a single count of
conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute heroin in
violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 841. Several
co-conspirators were indicted for additional drug and gun
crimes. At trial, the government's theory was that Obiora
and Chukwuma were Antoine's heroin suppliers until
Antoine took their heroin without paying on October 3. The
jury found Obiora guilty of conspiracy with intent to
distribute heroin, and also found him responsible for at
least one kilogram of heroin.
first day of trial, the district judge informed the parties
about "one other thing," as follows:
I read it in the most recent Harvard Law Review that the
Sixth Circuit has just upheld one of my colleagues who after
a trial goes back to the jury room and asks the jury
individually to just write down what they think the sentence
should be, and then he uses that as some advice as to how to
impose a sentence . . . . I've been in touch with the
judge who has sent me all his information and I propose to do
that. You can read about it in the most recent Harvard Law
more appears to have been said about the matter until
Obiora's sentencing hearing, at which the district court
announced that it had conducted the jury poll:
I was interested to, in a procedure developed by my
colleague, Judge Gwin, in the Northern District of Ohio,
where after the verdict was received, he informally asked the
jury privately to advise as to what sentences they would
impose and then he announces an average and he takes that
into account. That procedure has been expressly confirmed in
United States v. Collins, 828 F.3d 386, a Sixth
Circuit case, 2016, and it's been written up with
approbation in the Harvard Law Review at a note in Volume 130
at Page 793. And I've resolved to follow that procedure
and I followed it in this case.
The average of the jury's suggestion is that he should be
sentenced to 19.4 years. That of course is higher than
constitutionally this Court could sentence him, but I
court conducted the poll ex parte and off record. At
no point did either party object to the court's
administration of the ...