August 22, 2014 4th Circuit published opinion

United States v McLaurin and United States v Lowery 

McLaurin and Lowery were convicted of conspiracy and firearms charges arising from an agreement to rob a drug stash house. They appealed arguing they were entrapped. The panel, with one partial dissent, affirmed except as to McLaurin’s sentence which was vacated and remanded. The panel held that the district court properly charged the jury both as to the elements of entrapment and as the meaning of government inducement. It held that evidence that Lowery possessed a firearm eight months prior to the proposed robbery was relevant to prove his intent to commit the robbery and thus was admissible to prove predisposition which would negate the entrapment defense. Alternatively, Lowery testified he wasn’t serious about participating in a robbery and this opened the door to the firearms possession evidence. The panel held that there was no error in admitting the fact that McLaurin had been convicted of a robbery as his attorney’s cross examination left a false impression that no evidence existed that McLaurin had ever participated in a robbery. The majority held that Lowery’s firearm charges were properly joined as the evidence that he sold firearms to the same confidential informant that introduced him to undercover agents would have been admissible to prove predisposition and thus there was no prejudice from the joinder. The majority finally vacated McLaurin’s sentences holding the criminal history was incorrectly scored, this increased the sentencing range and the sentencing judge indicated it was troubled at the high guideline range. The dissent argued that there was no logical relationship between the conspiracy and firearms charges and thus joinder was improper. It also argued this error was not harmless as the firearms evidence would not have been allowed at a separate trial as possessing a gun and robbing a house are not similar.

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