May 15, 2014 4th Circuit published opinion

United States v Garcia

Over Garcia’s objections, the district court allowed an FBI agent to testify as an expert on the meaning of coded phrases in conversations between Garcia and accused codefendants. Garcia was convicted of conspiracy and drug trafficking. The panel vacated judgment and remanded. It held that the agent was properly qualified as an expert based on her experience and her methodology was sufficient to allow expert testimony. However, the panel held the agent’s testimony was improper because she was allowed to share coconspirator admissions in the guise of exert interpretation and the government failed to provide any foundation for her testimony and all her conclusions are thus unreliable. The panel the error was not harmless as there was virtually no independent evidence connecting Garcia to the crimes charged, the main witness had credibility issues and the repeated call and recall of the agent taken together infected the proceeding and require a new trial.

United States v Perez

Perez was found to be a sexually dangerous person. On appeal he challenged this finding and argued his case should have been dismissed for failure to serve him with a summons. The panel affirmed. It held that the summons was unnecessary as the 18 USC 4248 provides a streamlined way to notify prisoners of the civil commitment proceeding and adequately provides that notice while the person’s detention provides jurisdiction over him in the district court based on personal physical presence. As to the finding, the panel held that the expert testimony, Perez’s criminal history, impulsive and risky behavior were sufficient for eh district court to reasonable conclude that Perez would have difficulty controlling his desires for male minors and to thus find him to be sexually dangerous.

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