ONE CONSPIRATOR, ONE CONSPIRACY

The Fourth Circuit today reaffirms the inconsistent verdict doctrine, affirming a conviction of one conspirator where his alleged co-conspirator was acquitted by the same jury.

One may readily envision Warren Collins’ puzzlement.  He stood trial alongside James Scott in a West Virginia federal court, both charged with conspiravy to distribute cocaine base.  The jury sprung Scott, but found Collins guilty as charged.

Collins no doubt asked his lawyer some version of the following question: “I thought you said it took two to make a conspiracy.  How can I be guilty and he be innocent?”

Today the Fourth Circuit gives him the answer, consistent with a line of caselaw from the US Supreme Court on down.  Appellate courts won’t disturb a conviction merely because the verdict is inconsistent in this way.  The case is US v. Collins .  The decision also rejects Collins’ contentions that certain evidence should have been suppressed, that the evidence as a whole was insufficient to establish his guilt, and that his sentence was calculated incorrectly.