FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
MASSACHUSETTS [Hon. F. Dennis Saylor IV, U.S. District
A. Amabile for appellant.
R. De Vincentis, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom
William D. Weinreb, Acting United States Attorney, was on
brief, for appellee.
Thompson, Selya, and Barron, Circuit Judges.
THOMPSON, Circuit Judge.
on or around March 22, 2014 - all dates here are in that
year, by the way - Shayne Parker committed two legal no-nos:
he possessed 50 rounds of 38-caliber ammo while being a
convicted felon, and he transported a SCCY Model CXP 9-mm
pistol into his state of residence without a license. Or so a
federal grand jury in Massachusetts alleged in an indictment
charging him with violating 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1)
and (a)(3). Parker pleaded not guilty. But a trial jury found
him guilty as charged. And a district judge sentenced him to
60 months in prison and 3 years of supervised release.
now appeals only his conviction, arguing that the judge
triply erred - first, by not individually voir diring
prospective jurors about their feelings toward race; then, by
admitting evidence of other gun and ammo purchases (what we
will call "other-acts evidence"); and, finally, by
instructing the jury on willful blindness. Concluding that
none of his challenges rises to the level of reversible
error, we affirm.
THE CASE GOT HERE
March 21, Parker drove with Ronald Scott from Massachusetts
(their state of residence) to New Hampshire and checked into
the Keene Inn in Keene, New Hampshire. The room was
registered in Parker's name. There they hooked up with
Mitchell Riddell, a drug customer of Scott's. And Riddell
talked to Scott - in Parker's presence - about buying
trio got together again the next day, March 22, this time
joined by Melanie LaMott. Turns out LaMott could legally buy
firearms in the Granite State and had agreed with Riddell to
act as a straw buyer. Parker and Scott are African-American;
Riddell and LaMott are white - why this matters will become
clear in the next section of this opinion.
foursome first went to the Alstead Gun Shop in Alstead, New
Hampshire. They checked out some handguns but left because
Scott became uncomfortable with someone in the shop.
gang then headed to the Sporting and Hunting Depot in
Charlestown, New Hampshire, with Parker driving Scott in a
Subaru and Riddell driving LaMott in a Toyota. After they all
entered the store, LaMott bought a bunch of firearms, one of
which was a SCCY Model CXP 9-mm pistol. Satisfied with the
purchases, the group went to LaMott's Keene apartment,
where Scott gave Riddell and LaMott crack cocaine as a
partial payment for their services. Parker and Scott handled
the firearms and said how pleased they were with them.
quartet set out for Boston, Massachusetts - Riddell and
LaMott in Riddell's car, and Parker and Scott in the
Subaru - but stopped en route at Dick's Sporting Goods
Store in Keene so Scott and LaMott could buy ammunition,
including the 38-caliber ammunition. Once in Boston, Parker
and Scott examined the guns and ammo. And Scott gave Riddell
and LaMott the rest of the drugs they were owed for helping
point, the police caught wind of what was going on. And
Parker's arrest, indictment, and conviction followed
apace. As we said, his brief on appeal advances three claims
of error - though all are without merit, for reasons we
explain in the pages that follow.
Parker elected to go to trial, the parties geared up to
select an impartial jury. As part of that process,
Parker's counsel asked the judge if he planned on
conducting any individual voir dire. "Only at sidebar,
if someone raises [a] hand" in response to a group
question, the judge said - though, he stressed,
"we're not going to do individualized voir dire in
the sense of . . . doing it in the lobby or doing it
segregated." But Parker's lawyer believed the
judge's proposed approach would not do enough to uncover
potential jurors holding racist views. And so he pushed for
individual voir dire, arguing to the judge as follows:
• As a statistical matter, the criminal-justice system
treats African-Americans much harsher than others.
• The race of the cooperating straw buyers added a
"cross-racial component" to the case.
• The charged ammo/firearm "offenses" also
"play[ed] into a stereotype."
• One could not "realistically expect jurors to
respond in the audience in front of all of the other
prospective jurors to questions about whether they are biased
or prejudiced against people based on their race."
• And individual voir dire would better help him assess
a potential juror's demeanor and thus better help him
decide whether he or she had answered the judge's
on these reasons - offered without any evidence (like, say, a
social-science study) to back them up - counsel asked the
judge to ask these five questions (the bracketed numbers are
 Do you have any feelings or opinions about black people
that would cause you to question your ability to be impartial
in evaluating the evidence in this case?
 Would the fact that Mr. Parker is a black man make it
more difficult for you to decide a verdict in his favor than
if he were white?
 Do you believe that black men are more likely to commit a
crime than others?
 Have you had any experiences with black people that might
make you unable to be fair and impartial in this case?
 Can you honestly assure the court that the race of the
defendant will not affect your ability to be fair and
to counsel's request, the judge said that it is "by
no means clear" that "people will be inhibited from
simply raising their hands in a crowd full of strangers
without uttering a word for fear of being shamed into
admitting racial prejudice, " but "will freely
admit racial prejudice to a judicial officer in a black robe
with lawyers and court reporters and law clerks
present." So he denied the call for individual voir
dire. "This is a relatively routine case, " the
judge then stressed - "not a death penalty case, not a
murder case, not a highly publicized case." Because
"[t]here's no racial angle to it" - "like
a victim and a perpetrator being of different races" -
and because "[n]othing about it particularly w[ould]
evoke a strong emotional response or a racially charged
response, " the judge saw no reason "to take the
highly unusual and time-consuming and resource-consuming step
of individual voir dire." Asked by the defense to
reconsider, the judge adhered to his ruling - despite
counsel's insistence that Donald Trump's recent
victory in the Massachusetts Republican primary had
"engendered serious racial polarization" and that
individual voir dire would add only "a couple of extra
hours" to the process.
judge proceeded to empanel the jury. And per his usual
practice, the judge told the prospective jurors that
"[i]t is very important that you give truthful
responses." And then the judge said:
Ladies and gentlemen, when I ask a question if you think your
answer is yes or your answer is yes, please raise your hand.
If you raise your hand, I'm going to call you over here
to the sidebar one-by-one. I'll find out what the issue
is. I might explore it with you a little bit.
judge started voir dire off with some basic icebreaking
questions. For instance, after mentioning the names of the
potential witnesses, the judge asked, "Do any of you
know or are you related to . . . or acquainted" with
"any of those people?" A few potential jurors
raised their hands, just like the judge had asked them to do.
And after calling them to sidebar, the judge asked some
probing follow-up questions.
turning to the issue of racial bias, the judge noted that
"it can be difficult sometimes for people to talk openly
about [race] or to be honest or open about whatever feelings
they may have on [that] subject, but your duties and
obligations as citizens and as potential jurors require you
to be completely honest with me." Having said that, the
judge asked the group if anyone had "any feelings of any
kind that may affect your ability in any way to be fair and
impartial in the trial of an African-American defendant
because of his race." No one raised a hand.
sidebar, Parker's lawyer restated his position that group
questions answered with a show of hands did not suffice
because "there's no way anybody is going to come
forward on that." "All right, " the judge
said, "[o]ther than individualized voir dire, is there
any particular question you want me to ask that I have not
asked to the group?" Defense counsel identified two,
which the judge posed to the group: "[D]o any of you
believe that it is more likely that the defendant is guilty
of the crime because he is African-American?" And
"[h]ave any of you had an experience of any kind with
African-Americans that would affect your ability to be a fair
and impartial juror in the trial of this case?" No one
raised a hand in response to either question. The judge
empaneled a jury of twelve, plus two alternates. And as