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Second Circuit — Terrorism: United States v. Defreitas

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit


Evidence of Intent — Abuse of Discretion

United States v. Defreitas
Judges Walker, Sack and Wesley

Background: The defendants were found guilty of conspiracy to carry out acts of terrorism against the John F. Kennedy International Airport. They were sentenced to life in prison. On appeal, the defendants argued that it was improper to have empaneled an anonymous jury; it was in error to have a terrorism expert testify; the admission of certain photographs was improper; and the failure to declassify a confidential memo was prejudicial.

Ruling: The Second Circuit affirmed. The court found no fault in determining that, because of the nature of the crime, the jurors would be fearful if their identities were revealed to the defendants. Also, the expert testimony was probative of the intent element of the charged conspiracies. The Second Circuit found the photographs of the defendant posing with assault rifles was probative of intent. With respect to the classified memo, the defendant failed to demonstrate what the defense could gain through the memo’s declassification that was not otherwise available. The court found that a recording of the defendant’s “mm mmm” in response to a statement was not an adoption as it could mean a number of things. Finally, the sentence to life in prison was reasonable.

Marshall L. Miller, assistant U.S. attorney, for the appellee; Darrel B. Fields of the Federal Defenders of New York Inc. for the defendant-appellant Russell Defreitas; Arza Feldman of Feldman and Feldman for the defendant-appellant Abdul Kadir; Daniel Nobel for the defendant-appellant Abdel Nur