United States v. Hackley, No. 10-4069

Decided: Dec. 6, 2011

James Richard Hackley was convicted of several offenses related to his sale of cocaine base to a government informant and subsequent efforts to have that informant murdered. Hackley challenged his convictions, the joinder of the charges into a single trial, the court’s refusal to grant him new counsel, and his sentence. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, noting that the facts of the case were “perilously close to the lower boundary of what we will accept as substantive evidence of a conspiracy to distribute drugs,” affirmed. The Court noted that the evidence of substantial quantities of drugs is, on its own, too thin to support an inference of conspiracy. However, taken together, the testimony of a government informant and one of Hackley’s girlfriends could lead the jury to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Hackley had a continuous buy-sell relationship with Maryland suppliers of crack. Letters written by Hackley to his many girlfriends seeking help in his murder for hire scheme were sufficient evidence of Hackley soliciting someone to murder the government informant. Although Hackley did not like the style of his counsel, there was no suggestion that her representation was inadequate. The Court was not persuaded by any of Hackley’s other arguments. Therefore, the judgment was affirmed.

Full Opinion

-Sara I. Salehi

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