United States v. Gadson

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Evidence
  • Date Filed: 08-19-2014
  • Case #: 12-30047
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Ikuta for the Court; Circuit Judges Kozinski and Berzon
  • Full Text Opinion

Statements deflecting blame are not an admissible exception to hearsay.

Defendant’s Anthony Gadson (“Gadson”) and Willie Wilson (“Wilson”) were involved in an illegal drug-trafficking operation. After obtaining a search warrant, Officer Avery Thompson and his team raided the defendant’s house. The officers found drugs, cash, and other drug paraphernalia. Gadson was convicted of five crimes, and Wilson of seven. Together they appealed their convictions on the basis of improper evidentiary rulings. In particular, they argue the court improperly interpreted the hearsay rule by excluding out-of-court statements made by Gadson’s brother therefore depriving Gadson of his constitutional right to present a defense. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit determined whether or not the hearsay rule was misapplied by the district court. According to the Federal Rules of Evidence, Rule 804(b)(3), “out-of-court statements are not excluded by the rule against hearsay if the declarants is unavailable as a witness, and the statements is (1) truly self-inculpatory . . . and (2) is supported by corroborating circumstances that clearly indicate trustworthiness.” The panel held that district court did not abuse its discretion in rejecting the brother’s statements. The panel held that the statements do not meet the exception to the hearsay requirements, reasoning that statements deflecting blame are not within the scope of the rule, the statements were not trustworthy, and exculpatory statements made by family members are not generally seen as being reliable. Additionally, the panel held that the denial of those statements did not prevent the defense from building a complete case. AFFIRMED.

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