United States v. Lagunas Hernandez, No. 20-1343 (8th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
The Eighth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction and 156-month sentence for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and distribution of methamphetamine. The court concluded that the prosecution's argument that there was no evidence to support defendant's theory was a fair response and did not shift the burden of proof. Furthermore, the court’s instruction on the burden of proof, and the prosecution's own reminder to the jury that the burden of proof rested with the government, avoided any potential prejudice. The court rejected defendant's contention that the prosecutor attacked defense counsel by arguing that he was trying to distract the jury. Rather, the prosecution is entitled to comment on its interpretation of the evidence and the government did not exceed its considerable latitude in rebuttal.
The court also concluded that there was no error in admitting text messages that were protected by the marital communications privilege where defendant failed to produce evidence showing that she and R.B. were married under the law of any State. Defendant also waived any marital privilege when she consented to the search of her phone. Finally, the court concluded that there was no error in the district court's denial of defendant's request for a two-level decrease in offense level under USSG 2D1.1(b)(18) where she failed to show that she had truthfully provided the government all information and evidence she had concerning the offense.