U.S. v. Holmes, No. 10-4738

Decided Feb. 29, 2012

Darrell Holmes, a former Air Force Airman, was found guilty by a jury for two counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child stemming from two instances of molesting his stepdaughter while stationed in Japan. After returning from active duty in Qatar, investigators questioned Holmes about the incident. Holmes asserted that he was in good health and capable to talk with investigators; he also signed a statement waiving his Fifth Amendment rights. He confessed to the acts, gave explicit details about them, and signed a statement verifying his accounts.

Initially, the Air Force ordered a court martial but later dismissed the action. An indictment was then filed in the Eastern District of Virginia, but was also dismissed. Sometime later, Holmes was discharged from the Air Force and, after a second indictment in the Eastern District of Virginia, was arrested in North Carolina and transported to Virginia for trial. This second indictment was also dismissed when the district court found that venue was improper, stating that he should have been tried in North Carolina. Holmes was then immediately rearrested and a third indictment was issued in the Eastern District of Virginia. After several unsuccessful motions—namely to suppress his statements to investigators, to dismiss for improper venue, and a failed attempt to present an expert to provide expert testimony about false confessions—he was found guilty and sentenced to consecutive 262 months imprisonments.

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit affirmed his convictions. The court held that Holmes’ confession was not coerced or the result of investigators taking advantage of a diminished mental state. He was advised of his rights and knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived them to confess to the crimes. The court also held that the plain reading of the venue statute calls for an offense-specific, rather than indictment-specific, determination of location. Because Holmes was first charged with and arrested in the Eastern District of Virginia, venue was proper in that district. Finally, the court held that the district judge did not abuse his discretion in keeping out the defense’s proposed expert due to both improper timing and content disclosure.

Full Opinion

-C. Alexander Cable

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