Articles Posted in Evidence and Trials

Published on:

It would be hard to overstate the impact of the Supreme Court’s recent cases on the Confrontation Clause.

Starting with Crawford v Washington, the Court has given much more meat to the requirement that if testimony is going to be used against someone in a criminal case, the person giving the testimony has to be in the courtroom and actually testifying.

Some of these changes are slow moving. Even though Crawford was decided in 2004 – whether business records provide an exception to the confrontation requirement has been a little unclear. Happily, the First Circuit clarified that business records are not automatically excluded from the Confrontation Clause.

Published on:

Federal conspiracy law is a crazy thing.

It seems simple enough – a person is guilty of a federal criminal conspiracy if they agree with someone else to commit a federal crime and take some steps to carry out committing that crime.

But the agreement doesn’t have to be explicit – it can be inferred from the way people act. Sort of in the same way that when my daughter puts cookies in our shopping cart at the grocery store while I’m watching we have an agreement that we’re going to buy cookies.

Published on:

Christopher Spears was no stranger to a fake document. Though at some point, it’s about standards.

Mr. Spears had a thriving business outside of Chicago, in Lake County Indiana, making all kinds of fake identification documents – he made drivers’ licenses, handgun permits, high school diplomas, etc.

He was a bigger diploma mill than Phoenix University.

Published on:

Perhaps Ramie Marston was confused?

She filed for bankruptcy on her own – without a lawyer.

When you file for bankruptcy, you have to fill out a lot of paperwork. Here, Ms. Marston was asked what other names she’d used in the past.

Published on:

Gerard Sasso made some bad decisions.

As humans have for thousands of years, he enjoyed stargazing. He also had an odd habit of collecting laser pointers – perhaps inspired by that scene in the 1985 Val Kilmer film “Real Genius” where a laser leads to an improbably awesome party.

Mr. Sasso’s use of a laser, though, didn’t lead to a super cool party thrown by engineering students – even though it was not far from M.I.T. Instead, it led him to federal prison.

Published on:

James Mathurin had a hard adolescence.

As a seventeen-year old, he went on a five-month crime spree in Miami involving armed robberies and carjackings.

Finally, he was arrested when the police suspected that he had carjacked an Acura. He told the police about how he’d spent the past few months. The state law enforcement authorities investigated and corroborated a lot of what he said.

Published on:

David Sklena and Edward Sarvey worked together in the futures pit of the Chicago Board of Trade.

On April 2, 2004, between 7:31 and 7:38 in the morning, the government contends that the two men engaged in a conspiracy to commit commodities and wire fraud.

7776_share_markets.jpgSeven Minutes in April

Published on:

It’s very fashionable these days for United States Attorney’s Offices to bring large indictments charging many people with involvement in a drug conspiracy.

They almost always get convictions.

381260_conspiracy.jpgYet in the case of United States v. Gaskins, the D.C. Circuit – in an opinion written by a former federal prosecutor – ruled that the United States Attorney’s Office indicted, and a jury convicted, a man for being a part of a drug conspiracy when no reasonable juror could have found that he was involved.

Published on:

It’s exceptionally rare for the Fourth Circuit to reverse a life sentence for someone who caused another person to die in the course of a botched bank robbery. And when the panel that heard the appeal has both Judges Wilkinson, and Niemeyer – whoa nelly – that’s one whopper of a government error.

1097248_guard_with_machine_gun.jpgA Bank Robbery Gone Bad

September 28, 2008 did not turn out the way Larry Whitfield had planned.

Published on:

Like many Americans, Meggan Alexander wanted to participate in the dream of home ownership. Like many Americans, Ms. Alexander had lost her job.

Unlike many Americans, Meggan Alexander signed documents at a real estate closing that said she was employed when she wasn’t.

1117134_contract_2.jpgThe government can be a stickler for proper paperwork. Because she signed these documents saying that she was employed when she wasn’t, she was indicted for making a false statement with the intent to influence an FDIC-insured entity.