United States v. Eric Jonelle Cochran ( 2009 )


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                  IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
                                                                         FILED
                           FOR THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT U.S. COURT OF APPEALS
                             ________________________ ELEVENTH CIRCUIT
                                                                   JUNE 2, 2009
                                   No. 08-16262                  THOMAS K. KAHN
                               Non-Argument Calendar                 CLERK
                             ________________________
    
                       D. C. Docket No. 08-00049-CR-J-32-JRK
    
    UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
    
    
                                                                     Plaintiff-Appellee,
    
                                         versus
    
    ERIC JONELLE COCHRAN,
    
                                                                Defendant-Appellant.
    
    
                             ________________________
    
                      Appeal from the United States District Court
                          for the Middle District of Florida
                           _________________________
    
                                     (June 2, 2009)
    
    Before CARNES, BARKETT and PRYOR, Circuit Judges.
    
    PER CURIAM:
    
         Eric Jonelle Cochran appeals his conviction for possession of a firearm by a
    felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1), 924(e). Cochran contends that the
    
    district court erred in denying his motion for judgment of acquittal because there
    
    was insufficient evidence to support his conviction. He argues that the jury was
    
    “confronted with equally persuasive theories of guilt and innocence” and that a
    
    rational trier of fact could not have found guilt beyond a reasonable doubt because
    
    “the government’s case rested on the testimony of a singular officer,” “another
    
    person was present at the scene where the gun was recovered,” and Cochran’s
    
    fingerprints were not on the gun or the bullets found by the arresting officer.
    
          Section § 922(g)(1) makes it unlawful for a felon knowingly to possess a
    
    firearm that affected or was in interstate commerce. See 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1);
    
    United States v. Wright, 
    392 F.3d 1269
    , 1273 (11th Cir. 2004). “Possession can be
    
    shown by circumstantial as well as direct evidence” and “can be either actual or
    
    constructive.” Wright, 392 F.3d at 1273. We review de novo the sufficiency of
    
    the evidence to support a conviction, “viewing the evidence in the light most
    
    favorable to the government, with all reasonable inferences and credibility choices
    
    made in the government’s favor.” Id. We will not overturn a conviction on the
    
    grounds of insufficient evidence unless no rational trier of fact could find that the
    
    evidence establishes the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Id. The jury
    
    is free to choose among reasonable constructions of the evidence, and we must
    
    
    
                                               2
    accept a jury’s inferences and determinations of witness credibility. United States
    
    v. Williams, 
    390 F.3d 1319
    , 1323 (11th Cir. 2004); see also Wright, 392 F.3d at
    
    1273.
    
            We conclude that there was ample evidence from which a rational trier of
    
    fact could have found Cochran guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The arresting
    
    officer testified that, as he emerged from his cruiser, he saw Cochran drop a shiny,
    
    silver, palm-sized object to the ground. He further testified that he recovered a
    
    loaded .25 automatic handgun from the location where Cochran had been standing
    
    and that the gun was not rusted or corroded in a way that would indicate it had
    
    been there for a while. Although there was another man at the scene, the officer
    
    testified that the man had been standing in the middle of the road apart from
    
    Cochran, who had been standing in a grassy area between the road and the
    
    sidewalk.
    
            The government also presented a latent print examiner who testified that
    
    there was “not enough detail” on the recovered weapon or ammunition “for any
    
    sort of identification or comparison” but also that people do not automatically
    
    leave fingerprints when they touch something. He noted that certain factors can
    
    prevent fingerprints from transferring to an object, such as whether that object had
    
    been “dropped on the ground” or had come “in contact with dirt or debris.”
    
    
    
                                              3
          Finally, the government offered a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol,
    
    Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, who testified that the gun involved in this case
    
    had traveled in interstate commerce because it had been manufactured in Illinois,
    
    sold in Georgia, and eventually recovered in Florida. In addition to the
    
    government’s evidence, cross examination of Cochran revealed that he was a
    
    seven-time felon who was admittedly under the influence of marijuana the day he
    
    was arrested.
    
          The jury was entitled to reject Cochran’s testimony that it was the other man
    
    present at the scene—and not Cochran—who possessed the weapon in favor of the
    
    opposing testimony presented by the government. See Williams, 390 F.3d at 1323.
    
    Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the government, the district
    
    court did not err in denying Cochran’s motion for judgment of acquittal. See
    
    Wright, 392 F.3d at 1273.
    
          AFFIRMED.
    
    
    
    
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Document Info

DocketNumber: 08-16262

Filed Date: 6/2/2009

Precedential Status: Non-Precedential

Modified Date: 12/21/2014