Archive | presumption of innocence

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

Checking References

United States v.Deandrade, No. 08-4815-cr (2d Cir. March 12, 201(Jacobs, Hall, CJJ, Murtha, DJ)

At Deandrade’s trial, two cooperating witnesses mentioned that he was incarcerated during his trial. The district court denied his mistrial motions, and on appeal, the circuit affirmed.

Deandrade argued that those references improperly impaired the presumption of innocence under Estelle v. Williams, 425 U.S. 501 (1976). The circuit disagreed, noting that in situations like this, several other courts have held that under Estelle “brief and fleeting references are generally allowed, but extended comment is impermissible.” The circuit agreed, holding that “a brief and fleeting comment on the defendant’s incarceration during trial, without more, does not impair the presumption of innocence to such an extent that a mistrial is required.”

There was accordingly no error here. The remarks were isolated, “apparently unintentional on the part of the prosecution,” incidental to legitimate questioning and the government did not …

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Saturday, January 19th, 2008


United States v. Glover, No. 05-5047-cr (2d Cir. January 4, 2008) (Pooler, Raggi, CJJ, McMahon, DJ)

At this firearms trial, the judge charged the jury, over objection, that “the crucial, hard-core question” to answer was, “Where do you find the truth?” He also instructed: “The only triumph in any case, whether it be civil or criminal, is whether or not the truth [has] triumphed.” One defendant was acquitted; the other was not and appealed.

The circuit affirmed. It agreed that these instructions, in isolation, would be error because they do not ensure that the jury will have a correct understanding of the presumption of innocence or the government’s burden of proof. In addition, the court strongly discouraged their use in the future: “[T]o the extent that a trial court thinks it appropriate in a criminal case to identify for the jury a single ‘crucial, hard-core question,’ that question should be …

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Categories: burden of proof, jury charge, presumption of innocence, Uncategorized

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Saturday, October 6th, 2007

Et Tu, Brute – NOT!

United States v. Brutus, Docket No. 06-2710-cr (2d Cir. October 2, 2007) (Jacobs, Walker, Calabresi, CJJ)

Waline Brutus testified at her drug importation trial. During the charge, Judge Glasser instructed the jury, in relevant part, that she had a “deep personal interest in the outcome of the case” that “creates a motive to testify falsely.”

Following in the footsteps of its recent decision in United States v. Gaines, 457 F.3d 238 (2d Cir. 2006), the court held that this instruction was error. This case is significant because there had been a tension between Gaines and United States v. Tolkow, 532 F.2d 853 (2d Cir. 1976), which upheld very similar language. Here, the court very neatly cuts through the confusion and overrules Tolkow, creating a “prophylactic rule” that any “instruction that the defendant’s interest in the outcome of the case creates a motive to testify falsely impermissibly undermines the presumption of …

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Categories: charge, defendant’s credibility, harmless error, presumption of innocence, Uncategorized

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