Citing Lack of Evidence, Circuit Tosses Drug Conviction

, New York Law Journal


"We cannot say it is an absolute impossibility for a person with his hands securely handcuffed behind his back to extract a substantial quantity of crack cocaine from his person or clothing and wedge it into a space where the quantity was found without leaving a trace of cocaine on his fingers or clothing," Newman said, "but we can say that the possibility of such an occurrence is so exceedingly remote that no jury could reasonably find beyond a reasonable doubt that it happened."

Newman says "it taxes credulity" to believe Clark could have pulled that off, so the court should honor the constitutional standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt rather "than to require Clark to serve an extra three years … for an offense for which he is likely to be innocent."

Newman then cited U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972) quoting William O. Douglas to the effect that "it is better to let ten guilty persons go free than to convict one innocent person."

"In the past, some have favored higher ratios," Newman said. "However one wants to quantify an unacceptable risk of convicting the innocent, it is difficult to imagine a case where the possibility that an innocent person has been convicted of an offense is greater than the one now before us."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephan Baczynski argued for the government.

Nicholas Pinto argued for Clark.

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