Archive | bias

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

Confrontational

United States v. Figueroa, No. 06-1595-cr (2d Cir. November 18, 2008) (Kearse, Sack, Hall, CJJ)

In an interesting companion to Brinson v. Walker [blogged below under the title “Confrontation Claws”], the court treated a highly similar issue, this time under both the Confrontation Clause and the federal rules of evidence.

At Edwin Figueroa’s gun possession trial, he wanted to cross-examine a government witness about the fact that the witness had swastikas tattooed on his body. Since Figueroa was a member of a minority group, he argued that the tattoos would show that the witness was biased. Citing Rule 608, the district court precluded the questioning as inadmissible evidence of “bad character.”

On appeal, the circuit disagreed, holding that precluding the cross-examination violated the Confrontation Clause. “Inasmuch as the tattoos suggested that [the witness] harbored animus against racial or ethnic minority groups and their members, they were relevant to and probative …


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Friday, November 14th, 2008

Confrontation Claws

Brinson v. Walker, No. 06-0618-cr (2d Cir. November 13, 2008) (Kearse, Leval, Sack, CJJ)

In this state prisoner’s habeas corpus case, the circuit affirmed the grant of the writ because the state court’s refusal to permit the defense to cross-examine a supposed robbery victim about his racial bias violated the confrontation clause.

Brinson, the petitioner, testified at trial that this was not a robbery, but rather a small – ten-dollar – marijuana sale that had gone bad. He had hoped to raise a defense that the witness’ robbery accusation was false, and was motivated by a racial hatred of African-Americans. Defense counsel had a compelling offer of proof: first, he indicated that the witness had refused to serve African-Americans when he worked as a waiter, and that he was prepared to call the victim’s supervisor if the witness denied it. In addition, an acquaintance of the witness was prepared to …


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Categories: bias, Confrontation Clause, Uncategorized

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