United States v. Smith, No. 19-4321 (4th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for possession with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of methamphetamine, along with simple possession of a smaller quantity. The court agreed with defendant that the district court erred in permitting the government to deviate from the order of closing arguments prescribed in Rule 29.1 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. The court explained that the district court's decision to allow the government to waive its initial closing argument—yet retain the opportunity to rebut defendant's—violates the letter and spirit of that rule, inasmuch as it impairs a defendant's ability to rebut the government's arguments in the prescribed manner. However, the court held that this error did not prejudice defendant in light of the overwhelming evidence supporting the verdict. Furthermore, the court found no error with respect to defendant's remaining claims.