305 371-8101

Defendant's Right to be Present at Trial Did Not Include Jury Instruction Conferences

USA v. Perez,  612 F.3d 879  (7th Cir. 2010)

A jury convicted defendant of two counts of filing false federal income tax returns. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois sentenced defendant to 33 months'  imprisonment.

Defendant appealed, claiming that he was unfairly denied the right to be present at trial, that the jury was not properly instructed, that expert testimony was unfairly limited, and the evidence was insufficient to convict.

Defendant first argued that his right to be present at trial was violated because jury instruction conferences were held in his absence. The Court found that the right to specific jury instructions was one of those remaining decisions that rested in the hands of the attorney, and a defendant did not need to personally waive instructions.

While it would have been prudent to obtain defendant's waiver, the trial court was not required to address the jury instructions directly with him. Defendant clearly waived his right to a net worth instruction; the instruction lay opinion testimony was admissible under Fed.R.Evid 701 was close, the court concluded that the error, if any, was harmless.

The court affirmed the district court's judgment of conviction.

  • Tax Fraud Report
  • The Latest Criminal Tax Decisions, Selected Civil Tax Opinions and Related Economic Crimes