United States v. Dorsey

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Evidence
  • Date Filed: 04-30-2012
  • Case #: 10-30278
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Gould for the Court; Circuit Judge Schroeder and Chief District Judge Beistline
  • Full Text Opinion

Witness testimony tending to prove that the defendant had the means to commit a crime is not within the scope of inadmissible evidence involving “prior bad acts.”

Devaughn Dorsey pleaded guilty to several counts involving motor vehicle theft, including conspiracy to traffic in motor vehicles and operation of a chop shop. Additionally, he was convicted of one count of witness tampering and one count of discharging a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. Dorsey appealed on all counts. The Court held that the witness testimony about observing Dorsey with a similar firearm was admissible and was not evidence involving “prior bad acts,” because the evidence established that Dorsey had the means to commit the crime. Dorsey next argued that the district court erred in allowing the government to vouch improperly for the credibility of a witness. The Court rejected the argument, reasoning that the prosecutor’s line of questioning was not improper because it merely emphasized that the witness must not lie and did not suggest that the government was able to monitor the witness’s truthfulness. The Court also upheld the district court’s dismissal of Dorsey’s motion for mistrial, holding that when a judge immediately rebukes a witness for making an improper statement and tells the jury to disregard the statement, the propensity for the comment to materially affect the verdict, and thereby prejudice the defendant, is low. AFFIRMED.

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