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9th Circuit Reverses Marijuana Distribute & Conspiracy Conviction

USA v. Jose Ramirez-Ramirez Docket: 21-10127, Opinion Date: August 22, 2022. Defendant was tried for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and conspiracy to do the same during a one-day bench trial. Defendant subsequently filed a motion for findings of fact under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 23(c). Although he acknowledged that the motion might be untimely because the rule requires that such a motion be made “before the finding of guilty or not guilty,” Defendant argued that he had been unaware that the court intended to deliver its finding without a hearing. The district court denied the motion. The Ninth Circuit vacated the judgment of conviction. The panel held that the district court plainly erred by making only a written finding of guilt after trial, in violation of Defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to a public trial. The panel concluded that, although the usual remedy would be a remand to announce the finding in open court, the district court had already reiterated its finding of guilt publicly during Defendant’s sentencing, rendering such a remedy superfluous.


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