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United States v. Dealesandro

decided: June 7, 1966.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
PATRICIA DEALESANDRO, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Lumbard, Chief Judge, and Moore and Friendly, Circuit Judges.

Author: Moore

MOORE, Circuit Judge:

This is an appeal from a judgment of conviction on two counts of attempting to bribe a juror. Defendant was sentenced to five years' imprisonment on each count, sentences to run concurrently.

The testimony of the Government's witnesses tended to show that on the afternoon of May 18, 1965, defendant Patricia DeAlesandro made some purchases in a shoe store managed by Kenneth Feldman, then serving as a petit juror in a narcotics conspiracy case entitled United States v. Armone, on trial in the Southern District of New York. Defendant struck up a conversation with Feldman while making her purchases. After some further conversation, they went out to dinner together. At the restaurant, defendant spoke of the unfairness of the machinery of justice against accused persons. She said she and her husband had a friend on trial at the United States Courthouse named Steve Armone, who had been wrongly accused. Feldman said no one of that name was on trial before him and, if he were, he wouldn't discuss it with anyone. She then asked how much money he made; whether he would like to go into the shoe business on his own; and whether he would like a trip to Europe. He protested that he couldn't afford such things and tried to change the subject. She then asked: "Five thousand dollars?," and said: "Suppose a proposition were made to you whereby at the right time you would remember who your friends were?" Feldman said he wouldn't be interested. He asked for the dinner check and, after taking her home, called the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and told them what had happened.

Defendant's version of the dinner conversation was substantially different. She said that she suggested that he take a vacation, perhaps to Europe, only after he had said that he was tired of work. She denied offering him five thousand dollars or a trip to Europe. She said that after he began describing the case he was sitting on, she mentioned that she knew someone named Armone. He asked, "How well do you know Armone? Maybe I could get a shoe store out of this for myself?" He then said he was only kidding. She testified that after she went home from the restaurant, she had a fight with her husband and left home, going first to her sister-in-law's in City Island, then to her mother's in Michigan, and finally to her brother's in California, where she was arrested.

1. The Tactics of the Prosecution.

Defendant contends that she was denied a fair trial by the improper tactics of the prosecution, in that the prosecutor asked the jurors to identify themselves with Feldman, i.e., a juror like themselves; sensationally depicted her as a temptress; argued that in order to believe her one would have to regard all the Government witnesses as perjurers; and misstated facts in its summation. According to defendant, all of these factors taken together justify reversal, particularly because the case against her was in her opinion so weak.

We disagree. In the first place, the case against defendant could hardly have been stronger. Feldman's version of her behavior in the store was corroborated; her story that marital difficulties forced her flight first to Michigan and then to California is hard to believe; she admitted that she knew Joseph Armone, one of the defendants on trial, and that she had talked of knowing him to Feldman, after finding out that he was a juror in a case with the same name. In the second place, her counsel at trial did not object to the prosecution's remarks to the jurors about Feldman being a juror as they were; nor did the defense object to the prosecution's few questions about defendant's physical appearance. In the absence of such objection, these tactics of the prosecution could be grounds for reversal only if extremely inflammatory and prejudicial. United States v. Socony-Vacuum Oil Co., 310 U.S. 150, 238-239, 60 S. Ct. 811, 84 L. Ed. 1129; United States v. Johnson, 331 F.2d 281 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, Pheribo v. United States, 379 U.S. 905, 85 S. Ct. 196, 13 L. Ed. 2d 178 (1964). These were neither. The questions on physical appearance did no more than bring out what she was wearing and what her hair looked like. The remarks about Feldman's status as a juror did not transgress the bounds of propriety in this jury-tampering case.

The defense did object to the prosecutor's wholesale use of the word "perjurer" in his summation. The judge permitted the prosecution to state that in order to acquit the defendant, the jury would have to find Feldman and the two sales clerks to be perjurers. He sustained a defense objection to the prosecutor's statement that in order to acquit defendant, the Government witness Mendelsohn, a real estate agent, also had to be found to be a perjurer. These rulings were fair. The testimony of Feldman and the two sales clerks was in direct conflict with that of the defendant; the testimony of Mendelsohn was not. The prosecutor's remarks as to the testimony of Feldman and the sales clerks were fair argument, and his remarks about Mendelsohn's testimony, as discounted by the comments of the court, were not prejudicial to defendant.

As for the alleged misstatement of facts in the summation, the prosecutor said the defense theory was that Feldman lied about the dinner in order to get out of jury duty. It is true that defendant did not suggest such a thing in her testimony, but the remark was fair since the defense counsel had inferred such a motive on Feldman's part during questioning. In any case, the defense did not object to the alleged misstatement at the time it was made.

The summation by the prosecutor did at times attempt to reach dramatic heights but at most it can be characterized as overly flamboyant but not prejudicially inflammatory. Forensic zeal by prosecutor and defense counsel alike is apt to be displayed in these final moments of trial. Although reviewing courts must be ever alert to make sure that a defendant's right to a fair trial not be jeopardized, no such jeopardy is to be found here. Again, however, it might be appropriate to remind counsel that their task is to deal with the proof objectively and that their personal views thereon should not be revealed to the jury. As to the charge, this being a jury tampering case, it was quite appropriate for the trial court to tell the jury that if they were satisfied of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt that sympathy or any other reason should not cause them to hesitate to render a verdict against defendant, "as a clear warning to all that no one can tamper with the American, impartial jury system, which is the very cornerstone of our democratic institution and get away with it."

2. The Treatment of the Alleged False Exculpatory Statements.

The court instructed the jury that if it found that defendant made any false statements at the time of her arrest in an attempt to exculpate herself, this might be considered as circumstantial evidence from which consciousness of guilt might be inferred.

Defendant argues that the doctrine fairly summarized in the judge's charge was inapplicable here. First, she contends that her statements to the arresting FBI agent were mere protestations of innocence, which proved nothing as to her guilt or innocence. This contention is without merit. According to the FBI agent, she told him that she did not know of any narcotics trial in New York, and that she had nothing to do with any juror in any such trial. Both of these ...


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