United States v. Hector Iglesias Tovar

United States Court of Appeals For the Eighth Circuit ___________________________ No. 21-2567 ___________________________ United States of America Plaintiff - Appellee v. Hector Ramon Iglesias-Tovar Defendant - Appellant ____________ Appeal from United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa - Central ____________ Submitted: April 12, 2022 Filed: August 15, 2022 [Unpublished] ____________ Before COLLOTON, MELLOY, and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges. ____________ PER CURIAM. Hector Ramon Iglesias-Tovar (“Iglesias”), an undocumented immigrant, was indicted by a grand jury on multiple drug-related charges. He pleaded guilty to some charges and left two charges for trial. The jury found him guilty of both remaining charges, and he was sentenced to 228 months’ imprisonment. Iglesias appeals, challenging the voir dire conducted by the district court 1 and the substantive reasonableness of his sentence. We affirm. We begin with Iglesias’s claim that the district court conducted a voir dire that deprived him of his Sixth Amendment right to a fair and impartial jury. “[T]he adequacy of voir dire is not easily subject to appellate review.” Rosales-Lopez v. United States, 451 U.S. 182, 188 (1981). “We review whether the district judge conducted voir dire in a way that protected a defendant’s Sixth Amendment right . . . for an abuse of discretion.” United States v. Young, 6 F.4th 804, 807-08 (8th Cir. 2021) (internal quotation marks and brackets omitted). Abuse-of-discretion review “is necessary because the district court is in the best position to evaluate potential biases against a defendant.” Id. at 808 (internal quotation marks omitted). “The district court abuses its discretion when the overall examination of the prospective jurors and the charge to the jury fails to protect the defendant from prejudice or fails to allow the defense to intelligently use its peremptory challenges.” Id. The Government contends that, because Iglesias did not object during voir dire, this court should review some of Iglesias’s arguments for plain error. We need not decide the question whether Iglesias properly objected as Iglesias’s arguments all fail under the more favorable abuse-of-discretion standard for which he argues. First, Iglesias argues that the district court abused its discretion when it stated, “[I]f the Government finishes their strikes, and, you know, you’re happy with this pool—I’ve always said that you can pretty much give me any 12 Iowans and we’re going to have a very fair trial once you get rid of the strikes for cause.” According to Iglesias, the district court’s comment was an assumption that has been disproven by the racial disparities in Iowa prisons. The district court did not abuse its discretion. Its comment was made outside the presence of the prospective jurors and in response to a question about juror strikes. Because the comment was not made in their presence, the district court’s comment did not influence the prospective jurors. 1 The Honorable Rebecca Goodgame Ebinger, United States District Judge for the Southern District of Iowa. -2- See Hale v. Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., 756 F.2d 1322, 1330 (8th Cir. 1985) (acknowledging that comments made by the …

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