United States District Court, D. Arizona
Honorable G. Murray Snow, Judge
before the Court is Defendant Brandyn Blatchford's Motion
to Sever, (Doc. 41). For the following reasons, the Court
denies the Defendant's motion.
early hours of April 6, 2016, Brandyn Blatchford
(“Blatchford”) was arrested on suspicion of
having attacked his friend, RW, with a hammer. As a result of
the injury, RW sustained significant injuries to his head.
Blatchford was eventually charged with assault with a
dangerous weapon as well as assault resulting in serious
bodily injury. After his arrest, it was discovered that
Blatchford had a prior criminal history as a sex offender.
His status as a sex offender required him to register as
such. However, it appeared that Blatchford's listed
address on the registry was not his actual address.
Blatchford faced additional charges due to his alleged
failure to register, specifically failure to register as a
sex offender and committing an act of violence while failing
to register as a sex offender.
charges were joined together in a single superseding
indictment: Count One alleges that Blatchford committed
assault with a dangerous weapon in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 113(a)(3), Count Two alleges that he committed assault
resulting in serious bodily injury in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 113(a)(6), Count Three alleges that he failed to
register as a sex offender in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
2250, and Count Four alleges that he committed a crime of
violence while an unregistered sex offender in violation of
18 U.S.C. § 2250(c).
The Counts Against the Defendant are Properly Joined Under
of charges against a defendant is proper “if the
offenses charged-whether felonies or misdemeanors or both-are
of the same or similar character, or are based on the same
act or transaction, or are connected with or constitute parts
of a common scheme or plan.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 8(a). A
court looks only to the indictment to determine if joinder is
proper. See United States v. Jawara, 474 F.3d 565,
572-73 (9th Cir. 2007) (“[T]he established rule in this
circuit is that a valid basis for joinder should be
discernible from the face of the indictment, and we remain
faithful to that principle here.”).
least one of Rule 8(a)'s three conditions must be
satisfied for proper joinder, and those conditions, although
phrased in general terms, are not infinitely elastic.”
Id. at 573 (internal quotation and citation
omitted). However, “[t]ransaction is a word of flexible
meaning. It may comprehend a series of many occurrences,
depending not so much upon the immediateness of their
connection as upon their logical relationship.”
United States v. Friedman, 445 F.2d 1076, 1083 (9th
Cir. 1971) (quoting Moore v. N.Y. Cotton Exch., 270
U.S. 593, 610 (1926)). Generally, “[w]hen the joined
counts are logically related, and there is a large area of
overlapping proof, joinder is appropriate.” United
States v. Anderson, 642 F.2d 281, 284 (9th Cir. 1981).
is charged with assault with a dangerous weapon in violation
of 18 U.S.C. § 113(a)(3), assault resulting in serious
bodily injury in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 113(a)(6),
failure to register as a sex offender in violation of 18
U.S.C. § 2250, and committing a crime of violence while
an unregistered sex offender in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
2250(c). The “crime of violence”
alleged in Count Four is premised on the same criminal
activity that forms the basis of the assault charges. (Doc.
34 at 3.) Additionally, the failure to register charge in
Count Three is based upon the same failure to register charge
in Count Four. (Doc. 34 at 2-3.) There is a “large area
of overlapping proof” amongst these charges that
justifies joining the offenses under Rule 8(a) because each
charge is premised upon the same series of actions allegedly
undertaken by Blatchford. Anderson, 642 F.2d at 284.
Therefore, these charges are properly joined under Rule 8(a).
As Discussed with the Parties the Court Shall Consider
14(a) provides relief for defendants where the joinder of
offenses “appears to prejudice a defendant or the
government.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 14(a). The court has wide
discretion in determining whether relief is necessary under
Rule 14, and also possesses wide discretion in determining
the form the relief should take. See Zafiro v. United
States, 506 U.S. 534, 538-39 (1993) (“Moreover,
Rule 14 does not require severance even if prejudice is
shown; rather, it leaves the tailoring of the relief to be
granted, if any, to the district court's sound
discretion.”). In such an instance, “the court
may order separate trials of counts, sever the
defendants' trials, or provide any other relief that
justice requires.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 14(a).
the defendant's burden to establish that severance is
necessary, and severance is only required where joinder is
“so manifestly prejudicial that it outweigh[es] the
dominant concern with judicial economy and compel[s] the
exercise of the court's discretion to sever.”
United States v. Lopez, 477 F.3d 1110, 1116-17 (9th
Cir. 2007) (internal citation and quotation omitted).
Therefore, the existence of some prejudice is not sufficient
to require severance. Rather, severance is only necessary in
those rare cases where a jury cannot “reasonably be
expected to compartmentalize the evidence so that evidence of
one crime does not taint the jury's consideration of
another crime.” United States v. Johnson, 820
F.2d 1065, 1071 (9th Cir. 1987) (internal quotation omitted);
see also United States v. Vasquez-Velasco, 15 F.3d
833, 846 (9th Cir. 1994) (“In assessing whether joinder
was prejudicial, of foremost importance is whether the
evidence as it relates to the individual defendants is easily
compartmentalized.”). Such prejudice is more likely to
exist where the counts joined together are “similar in
nature.” Id. However, prejudice may be
mitigated through the use of proper jury instructions.
See Johnson, 820 F.2d at 1071 (upholding a district
court's decision not to sever counts where the court
instructed the jury that “[e]ach count charges a
separate crime. You must decide separately what the evidence
in the case shows about the crime”). Prejudice is also
lessened where the joined charges are wholly separate
incidents, and thus permit the jury to separate the charges
from each other. See Vasquez-Velasco, 15 F.3d at 846
(finding that even where the crimes committed were similar in
nature, their joinder was not prejudicial because each charge
occurred a week from the other, and “[a]s such, they
were discrete acts that a jury could compartmentalize
case at hand, Blatchford argues that Counts One and Two must
be severed from Counts Three and Four because the evidence of
his past sex offense conviction would unduly prejudice him.
(Doc. 41.) Blatchford cites to United States v.
Nguyen, 88 F.3d 812 (9th Cir. 1996), to support this
argument, but in Nguyen, the Ninth Circuit upheld
the district court's decision not to sever the counts
against the defendant. Id. at 818. The Ninth Circuit
did caution that “trying a felon in possession count
together with other felony charges creates a very dangerous
situation because the jury might improperly consider the
evidence of a prior conviction when deliberating about the
other felony charges.” Id. at 815. However,
more recently, the Ninth Circuit emphasized that where
“[e]ach of the alleged offenses arose from the same act
or transaction, and there was significant overlap in the
evidence for all charges, ” concerns for judicial
economy “outweigh[ed] any limited prejudice that [the