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Federal Judge Signals That Defense Counsel Will Be Permitted To Argue Jury Nullification in Questionable Child Porn Prosecution

by Chad Marks

Yehudi Manzano, a man in his 30s, was charged with producing and transporting child pornography. Manzano allegedly recorded a sexual encounter with his teenage sex partner. He then saved that video and sent it to and from his own phone.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Connecticut brought an indictment based on those actions. The indictment alleged that Manzano acted, “knowing and having reason to know that such visual depiction would be transported and transmitted using any means and facility of interstate and foreign commerce.” Federal mandatory minimums call for a sentence of 15 years for recording video of sex partners who are underage.

U.S. District Court Judge Stefan R. Underhill voiced his disgust with the government bringing such a prosecution. He chided the prosecution by stating, “I am absolutely stunned that this case with a 15-year mandatory minimum has been brought by the government.”

The judge did not stop there and went further by saying, “I am going to be allowed no discretion at sentencing to consider the seriousness of this conduct, and it is extremely unfortunate that the power of the government has been used in this way, to what end I’m not sure.”

Manzano’s attorney, Norman Pattis, argued that he should be permitted to let the jurors know that Manzano is facing at least 15 years in prison if convicted. The prosecutor, Neeraj N. Patel, objected to Pattis’ argument telling the judge, “You should take steps to prevent jury nullification and not inform the jury of the sentencing consequences.”

Judge Underhill conceded that he is not allowed to encourage jury nullification but responded to the prosecutor, “if evidence comes in about the length of the sentence, or if Mr. Pattis chooses to argue, I do not feel I can preclude that. I don’t feel I’m required to preclude that. And I think justice requires I permit that.”

The government filed an emergency motion to stay the trial while it seeks an order from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals preventing the judge from allowing the defense to inform jurors of the potential 15-year sentence and to prevent any jury nullification.

Whether jurors will be permitted to have all the information about this case is now in the hands of Second Circuit. 

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Source: Reason.com

 

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