A “Rule 29 Motion,” based on Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 29, is typically made twice during a federal trial – first, at the close of the Government's case, and again at the close of the entire case. These motions allow the judge to dismiss the case as a matter of law. Because the result is dismissal, these motions are extremely important, and it is critical that your attorney carefully review all the evidence and analyze every possibility for Rule 29 dismissal.
The standard followed by the judge is that “[t]he verdict of a jury must be sustained if there is substantial evidence, taking the view most favorable to the government, to support it.” Glasser v. United States, 315 U.S. 60, 80 (1942) (emphasis added); United States v. Steed, 674 F.2d 284, 286 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 459 U.S. 829 (1982); United States v. Sherman, 421 F.2d 198, 199 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 398 U.S. 914 (1970). However, even after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, the verdict should be set aside if the evidence still gives “equal or nearly equal” support to a theory of guilt and a theory of innocence, because in that event, a reasonable trier of fact “must necessarily” entertain reasonable doubt. United States v. Santillana, 604 F.3d 192, 195 (5th Cir. 2010). See also United States v. Glenn, 312 F.3d 58, 70 (2d Cir. 2002); United States v. Andujar, 49 F.3d 16, 20 (1st Cir. 1995); United States v. Wright, 835 F.2d 1245, 1249 (8th Cir. 1987); Cosby v. Jones, 682 F.2d 1373, 1383 (11th Cir. 1982).
The Constitution prohibits the criminal conviction of any person except upon proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 309 (1979). In that respect, the Constitution protects a defendant in a criminal case against conviction “except upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt of every fact necessary to constitute the crime with which he is charged.” Id. at 315. A properly instructed jury may occasionally convict even when it can be said that no rational trier of fact could find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Id. at 317. However, such an occurrence has traditionally been deemed to require reversal of the conviction. Id. at 317. The judge must determine whether the record evidence could reasonably support a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. at 318.
These Rule 29 Motions are important, not only because they result in dismissal of the charge if granted, but also because they preserve issues for your appeal if you are convicted. It is possible for an appellate court to review nonpreserved issues, but the chances of success are greatly reduced. Ensure that your attorney contemplates all possibilities for a Rule 29 Motion to increase your chances of dismissal both in the trial court or on appeal. Ayotte Carmichael Ellis & Brock, PLLC has successfully argued many matters on Rule 29 Motions, and we are well equipped to assess your legal issues. Please contact us today for a free consultation on your case.