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 …