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United States v. Watanabe

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

June 19, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
SAMANTHA LEIALOHA WATANABE, Defendant.

          ORDER DENYING THE GOVERNMENT'S MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION OF ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT'S APPEAL

          Leslie E. Kobayashi, United States District Judge

         On March 20, 2017, this Court issued its Order Granting in Part and Denying in Part Defendant's Appeal, Reversing Judgment in a Criminal Case and Remanding Case to the Magistrate Judge for a New Trial (“3/20/17 Order”). [Dkt. no. 220.[1] Before the Court is Plaintiff the United States of America's (“the Government”) motion for reconsideration of the 3/20/17 Order (“Motion”), filed on March 29, 2017. [Dkt. no. 221.]

         Defendant Samantha Leialoha Watanabe (“Defendant”) filed her memorandum in opposition on April 4, 2017, and the Government filed its reply on April 11, 2017. [Dkt. nos. 223, 224.] The Court has considered the Motion as a non-hearing matter pursuant to Rule LR7.2(e) of the Local Rules of Practice of the United States District Court for the District of Hawai`i (“Local Rules”). After careful consideration of the Motion, supporting and opposing memoranda, and the relevant legal authority, the Government's Motion is HEREBY DENIED for the reasons set forth below.

         BACKGROUND

         The relevant background is set forth in the 3/20/17 Order, and this Court will only repeat the background that is relevant to the instant Motion.

         The magistrate judge held Defendant's trial in December 2015, and the jury returned a guilty verdict on December 8, 2015. The Judgment in a Criminal Case was entered on May 3, 2015, and Defendant appealed.

         In the 3/20/17 Order, this Court: 1) denied Defendant's Appeal as to the juror bias issue because Defendant did not establish that she suffered any constitutionally recognized injury as a result of the denial of her request to strike Juror Number 10 for cause; 3/20/17 Order, 2017 WL 1058746, at *8; 2) granted the Appeal as to the lay opinion testimony issue because the testimony was not helpful to the jury and was therefore inadmissible under Fed.R.Evid. 701; id. at *11; 3) denied the Appeal as to Defendant's argument that the admission of testimony regarding the pre-flight incident was reversible error; id. at *13; 4) denied the Appeal as to Defendant's argument that, because of the Government's allegedly improper closing and rebuttal argument and the magistrate judge's overruling of defense counsel's objections, the jury may have convicted her based on acts that did not fall within the scope of the charged offense; id. at *14; and 5) denied the Appeal as moot as to the cumulative error issue; id. at *15.[2]

         In the instant Motion, the Government argues that this Court should reconsider its ruling on the lay opinion testimony issue because: a) this Court misapplied the abuse of discretion standard; b) the lay opinion testimony was admissible because it was based on the witnesses' first-hand observations and the content of the witnesses' testimony was valuable to the jury; and c) even if the magistrate judge abused his discretion in admitting the lay opinion testimony, this Court should not have granted the Appeal because the error was harmless.

         STANDARD

         There is no rule in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure expressly authorizing the filing of motions for reconsideration. However, many courts - including the Ninth Circuit - have recognized that motions for reconsideration may be filed in criminal cases. See, e.g., United States v. Hee, Cr. No. 14-00826 SOM, 2015 WL 6510345, at *11 (D. Hawai`i Oct. 27, 2015) (listing cases). “[M]otions for reconsideration in criminal cases are governed by the rules that govern equivalent motions in civil proceedings.” Id. (alteration in Hee) (citations and quotation marks omitted). This district court has stated:

A motion seeking reconsideration of a dispositive ruling in a criminal matter is treated like a motion to alter or amend a judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). United States v. Belgarde, 148 F.Supp.2d 1104, 1105 (D. Mont. 2001). Such motions must be filed within twenty-eight days of entry of the Court's order. Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e).

         The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has set forth the following grounds justifying reconsideration pursuant to Rule 59(e):

(1) If such motion is necessary to correct manifest errors of law or fact upon which the order rests;
(2) If such motion is necessary to present newly discovered or previously unavailable evidence;
(3) If such motion is necessary to prevent manifest injustice; or,
(4) If an amendment to the order is justified by an intervening change in ...

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