Submitted: April 13, 2016
from United States District Court for the Southern District
of Iowa - Des Moines
RILEY, Chief Judge, LOKEN and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.
SHEPHERD, Circuit Judge.
convicted Isabel Mata Trejo of conspiracy to distribute
methamphetamine, but acquitted her of possession with intent
to distribute methamphetamine and possession of a firearm in
furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. She challenges her
conviction on two grounds. First, she argues that the
district court should have granted her motion for
acquittal because the evidence is insufficient to support the
conspiracy conviction. Second, she contends that the district
court abused its discretion in submitting a deliberate
ignorance instruction to the jury. Having jurisdiction under
28 U.S.C. § 1291, we affirm.
March 2013, law enforcement officers began observing Mata
Trejo's property after receiving information that liquid
methamphetamine, originating in Mexico or California, was
being converted to solid form on the property. A residence,
where Mata Trejo lived, and a garage were located on the
property. A flatbed trailer stood 40 feet from the residence.
Officers positioned themselves in the woods near Mata
Trejo's property for surveillance purposes. During their
surveillance of the property, they observed two males walk
between the residence, garage, and flatbed trailer. At one
point, one of the men walked out of the residence holding a
gallon jug of liquid and retrieved aluminum pans from
underneath the trailer. With the assistance of the other man,
he poured liquid from the jug into the aluminum pans and
placed the pans back underneath the trailer. On another
occasion, the investigators observed one of the same men
digging on the property. Mata Trejo was never seen going into
the garage, but the investigators did observe her walking
around the property at or near the garage. The investigators
conducted controlled buys at different locations, including a
secluded location near Mata Trejo's property, at which
they observed vehicles that they had seen on Mata Trejo's
property. At the controlled buys near Mata Trejo's
property, the methamphetamine was packaged in dirt-encrusted
bags or Tupperware containers.
2013, a search warrant was executed on Mata Trejo's
property. In Mata Trejo's house, officers discovered $4,
000 in small denominations of United States currency, a
firearm, scales, and eight cellular telephones, including two
that belonged to Mata Trejo. In a wooded area north of her
residence, approximately 5, 050 grams of methamphetamine were
found buried in the ground in Tupperware containers and
plastic bags. In the garage, officers discovered empty
Tupperware containers, hot plates, scales, strainers, and a
heat sealer, items commonly found in methamphetamine
conversion labs. Officers also noticed an extension cord
running from within the residence to the garage providing
power to the garage.
Trejo was charged in three counts of a 12-count indictment
with conspiracy to distribute 500 grams or more of a mixture
and substance containing methamphetamine and 50 grams or more
of actual methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C.
§§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A)(viii), and 846;
possession with intent to distribute at least 500 grams of a
mixture and substance containing methamphetamine in violation
of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A)(viii), and
18 U.S.C. § 2; and possession of a firearm in
furtherance of a drug trafficking crime in violation of 18
U.S.C. § 924 (c)(1)(A). Some of Mata Trejo's
co-defendants pled guilty, but Mata Trejo and one other
co-defendant proceeded to trial.
trial, the government presented significant evidence of the
manufacture, distribution, and storage of methamphetamine on
Mata Trejo's property. Mata Trejo testified that she was
not aware of any illegal drug activity on her property and
did not go into the garage because it was very messy, but a
man named "Camaro" requested permission to store a
bag of clothes in the garage for $3, 000. She thought that
the packaging materials found in the garage may have belonged
to Camaro. Mata Trejo claimed ownership of the $4, 000 and
the firearm found in her residence.
jury found Mata Trejo guilty of engaging in a conspiracy to
distribute drugs, but acquitted her of the other charges.
Mata Trejo moved for acquittal on the basis that there was
insufficient evidence to support the jury verdict on the
conspiracy charge in light of the jury's acquittal of
Mata Trejo on the possession charge. The district court
denied the motion, finding that there was sufficient evidence
to support Mata Trejo's conviction. This appeal followed.
appeal, Mata Trejo argues that the district court erred in
denying her motion for acquittal and abused its discretion in
giving a deliberate ignorance instruction to the jury. We
will consider these arguments in turn.
review a motion for judgment of acquittal under a de novo
standard of review." United States v. Espinosa.
585 F.3d 418, 423 (8th Cir. 2009). Mata Trejo argues that the
district court erred in denying her motion for acquittal
because the evidence was insufficient to support her
conviction on the conspiracy charge. Specifically, Mata Trejo
argues that the jury's acquittal as to the charge of
possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine is
inconsistent with the conclusion that the government met its
burden of proof as to the elements of conspiracy to
distribute methamphetamine. When considering a jury verdict
that a party characterizes as inconsistent, we ask
"whether the government presented sufficient evidence to
support the conviction. We are reluctant to delve into the
minds of the jurors to determine the reasons for apparently
inconsistent verdicts." United States v.
Opare-Addo. 486 F.3d 414, 416 (8th Cir. 2007) (internal
citations omitted). "We review the sufficiency of the
evidence de novo, viewing evidence in the light most
favorable to the government, resolving conflicts in the
government's favor, and accepting all reasonable
inferences that support the verdict." Unit ...