Jacob Lyon was under investigation for his possible involvement in a shooting in Texas when law enforcement discovered the two firearms in question. During the investigation, Asher Schuler, a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, along with local law enforcement, traveled to the trailer home of Lyon’s common-law wife and mother of his two children. In the trailer home, Agent Schuler found a pistol, an AR-15 rifle, an AR-15 rifle magazine, and ammunition, along with some methamphetamine and marijuana. In addition, Agent Schuler found mail and medical insurance documents addressed to Lyon at the trailer’s address, which was also the address listed on Lyon’s driver’s license. In an interview at the police station, Lyon confirmed that he lived in the trailer.
At trial, Agent Schuler testified that he found the pistol in a half-opened drawer of a small plastic set of drawers that was in use as a nightstand beside the bed. Also in the bedroom, he found the mail addressed to Lyon, some ammunition, men’s and women’s clothing, a baby’s crib, and a rear sight for the rifle. Agent Schuler found the rifle in a kitchen broom closet, which contained very little else except the gun, and which was easily accessible to anyone in the trailer. Also in the kitchen he found a “safe” or lock box containing more ammunition, the methamphetamine, and the marijuana.
Agent Schuler was unclear in his testimony where exactly he found the rifle magazine. On direct examination, he stated that he found the rifle magazine in the safe in the kitchen. But on cross-examination, he stated that he believed he found the rifle magazine in the bedroom.
Jacob Lyon was found guilty of possessing firearms as a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). The district court sentenced him to 120 months’ imprisonment, the statutory maximum. On appeal, Lyon argues that the evidence was insufficient to show that he constructively possessed the firearms, because there was no evidence he knew they were there. The 5th affirmed.
A defendant constructively possesses a firearm if he has dominion or control over the premises in which the item is found. See Meza. When the firearm is found in a residence jointly occupied by the defendant and another person, some circumstantial indicium of possession besides mere joint occupancy is required. See Mergerson. The government must introduce some evidence supporting at least a plausible inference that the defendant had knowledge of and access to the illegal item. See Meza. Determining whether constructive possession exists is not a scientific inquiry, and the court must employ a common sense, fact-specific approach.
As the facts stated above show, the firearms, magazines, and ammunition were readily accessible and not hidden in the trailer home. Along with the firearms, there was ample evidence that Lyon inhabited the home along with his common-law wife: his bills, his medical insurance documents, his driver’s license, the statements by law enforcement, and his own admission all confirmed that the trailer was his current home.
Thus, this case is similar to Meza and Huntsberry, in which this court has held the evidence sufficient to support a finding of constructive possession. See Meza (holding that the evidence of constructive possession was sufficient because the weapon was not hidden but rather was found in plain view on top of a washing machine in the defendant’s shed, and it was loaded with ammunition from a box found inside the defendant’s bedroom); see Huntsberry (holding that the evidence of constructive possession was sufficient because the weapons were in what appeared to be the master bedroom closet in the trailer the defendant occupied for many years). Here, as in those two cases, there is sufficient evidence to justify a plausible inference by the jury that Lyon constructively possessed the firearms.
In Mergerson, by contrast, there was no constructive possession, because the documentary evidence showed that the defendant’s girlfriend had purchased the handgun in question, and it was stored out of sight under a mattress. Here, in distinction to Mergerson, the jury was entitled to discredit the unsubstantiated testimony from Lyon’s common-law wife that she purchased the firearms in the trailer home.
The evidence was sufficient to support the jury’s verdict that Lyon possessed the firearms.