United States v. Tyler, No. 17-2613 (3d Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Doreen Proctor reported drug activity in her neighborhood and cooperated with law enforcement. She was murdered. Tyler was acquitted of her murder in state court. A federal grand jury thereafter charged Tyler with witness tampering by murder, 18 U.S.C. 1512(a)(1)(C) and witness tampering by intimidation, 18 U.S.C. 1512(b)(3). Because legal errors resulted in overturned verdicts, Tyler was tried and found guilty three times. The district court set aside the third guilty verdict, concluding that there was insufficient evidence for a reasonable juror to conclude that Tyler had the intent to murder or intimidate Proctor to prevent her from communicating with a qualifying officer.
The Third Circuit reversed and directed the district court to reinstate the guilty verdict. The district court erred in ruling that the Supreme Court’s 2011 decision, Fowler v. United States, applies only to situations where a defendant does not know the identity of a specific law enforcement officer to whom the witness would have communicated. There was sufficient evidence upon which a rational juror could conclude that Tyler acted with intent to prevent Proctor from communicating with law enforcement, and there was a “reasonable likelihood” that she would have communicated with a qualifying law enforcement officer had she not been murdered.