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SCHAFFER ET AL. v. UNITED STATES

decided*fn*: May 16, 1960.

SCHAFFER ET AL
v.
UNITED STATES



CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT.

Warren, Black, Frankfurter, Douglas, Clark, Harlan, Brennan, Whittaker, Stewart

Author: Clark

[ 362 U.S. Page 512]

 MR. JUSTICE CLARK delivered the opinion of the Court.

Involved here are questions concerning joinder of defendants under Rule 8 (b) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure,*fn1 and whether shipments of stolen goods in interstate commerce may be aggregated as to value in order to meet the statutory minimum of $5,000, under 18 U. S. C. ยง 2314.*fn2

[ 362 U.S. Page 513]

     The indictment charged transportation in interstate commerce of goods known to have been stolen and having a value in excess of $5,000. It contained three substantive counts. Count 1 charged the two Schaffers (petitioners in No. 111) and the three Stracuzzas (defendants below, who either pleaded guilty or had the charges against them nolle prossed at trial) with transporting stolen ladies' and children's wearing apparel from New York to Pennsylvania. Count 2 charged petitioner Marco and the Stracuzzas with a similar movement of stolen goods from New York to West Virginia. Count 3 charged petitioner Karp and the Stracuzzas with like shipments from New York to Massachusetts. The fourth and final count of the indictment charged all of these parties with a conspiracy to commit the substantive offenses charged in the first three counts. The petitioners here were tried on the indictment simultaneously in a single trial. On motion of petitioners for acquittal at the close of the Government's case, the court dismissed the conspiracy count for failure of proof. This motion was denied, however, as to the substantive counts, the court finding that no prejudice would result from the joint trial. Upon submission of the substantive counts to the jury on a detailed charge, each petitioner was found guilty and thereafter fined and sentenced to prison. The Court of Appeals affirmed the convictions, likewise finding that no prejudice existed by reason of the joint trial. 266 F.2d 435. We granted certiorari. 361 U.S. 809.

The allegations of the indictment having met the explicit provisions of Rule 8 (b) as to joinder of defendants, we cannot find clearly erroneous the findings of the trial court and the Court of Appeals that no prejudice resulted from the joint trial. As to the requirements of

[ 362 U.S. Page 514]

     value, we hold that the shipments to a single defendant may be aggregated. The judgments are therefore affirmed.

We first consider the question of joinder of defendants under Rule 8 (b) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. It is clear that the initial joinder of the petitioners was permissible under that Rule, which allows the joinder of defendants "in the same indictment . . . if they are alleged to have participated in the same act or transaction or in the same series of acts or transactions constituting an offense or offenses." It cannot be denied that the petitioners were so charged in the indictment. The problem remaining is whether, after dismissal of the conspiracy count before submission of the cases to the jury, a severance should have been ordered under Rule 14*fn3 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. This Rule requires a separate trial if "it appears that a defendant or the government is prejudiced by a joinder of offenses or of defendants in an indictment or information or by such joinder for trial together . . . ." Under the circumstances here, we think there was no such prejudice.

It is admitted that the three Stracuzzas were the common center of the scheme to transport the stolen goods. The four petitioners here participated in some steps of the transactions in the stolen goods, although each was involved with separate interstate shipments. The separate substantive charges of the indictment employed almost identical language and alleged violations of the same criminal statute during the same period and in the same manner. This made proof of the over-all operation

[ 362 U.S. Page 515]

     of the scheme competent as to all counts. The variations in the proof related to the specific shipments proven against each petitioner. This proof was related to each petitioner separately and proven as to each by different witnesses. It included entirely separate invoices and other exhibits, all of which were first clearly identified as applying only to a specific petitioner and were so received and shown to the jury under painstaking instructions to that effect. In short, the proof was carefully compartmentalized as to each petitioner. The propriety of the joinder prior to the failure of proof of conspiracy was not assailed.*fn4 When the Government rested, however, the petitioners filed their motion for dismissal and it was sustained as to the conspiracy count. The petitioners then pressed for acquittal on the remaining counts, and the court decided that the evidence was sufficient on the substantive counts. The case was submitted to the jury on each of these counts, and under a charge which was characterized by petitioners' counsel as being "extremely fair." This charge meticulously set out separately the evidence as to each of the petitioners and admonished the jury that they were "not to take into consideration any proof against one defendant and apply it by inference or otherwise to any other defendant."

Petitioners contend that prejudice would nevertheless be implicit in a continuation of the joint trial after dismissal of the conspiracy count. They say that the resulting prejudice could not be cured by any cautionary instructions, and that therefore the trial judge was left with no discretion. Petitioners overlook, however, that the joinder was authorized under Rule 8 (b) and that subsequent severance was controlled by Rule 14, which provides for separate trials where "it appears that a

[ 362 U.S. Page 516]

     defendant . . . is prejudiced . . . by such joinder for trial . . . ." It appears that not only was no prejudice shown, but both the trial court and the Court of Appeals affirmatively found that none was present. We cannot say to the contrary on this record. Nor can we fashion a hard-and-fast formula that, when a conspiracy count fails, joinder is error as a matter of law. We do emphasize, however, that, in such a situation, the trial judge has a continuing duty at all stages of the trial to grant a severance if prejudice does appear. And where, as here, the charge which originally justified joinder turns out to lack the support of sufficient evidence, a trial judge should be particularly sensitive to the possibility of such prejudice. However, the petitioners here not only failed to show any prejudice that would call Rule 14 into operation but even failed to request a new trial. Instead they relied entirely on their motions for acquittal. Moreover, the judge was acutely aware of the possibility of prejudice and was strict in his charge -- not only as to the testimony the jury was not to consider, but also as to that evidence which was available in the consideration of the guilt of each petitioner separately under the respective substantive counts. The terms of Rule 8 (b) having been met and no prejudice under Rule 14 having been shown, there was no misjoinder.

This case is not like United States v. Dietrich,*fn5 where a single-count indictment against two defendants charged only a single conspiracy offense, or McElroy v. United States,*fn6 where no count linked all the defendants and all the offenses. Neither is Kotteakos v. United States,*fn7 on which the petitioners place their chief ...


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