United States v. Brooks

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 11-24-2014
  • Case #: 13-10146
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Friedland for the Court; Circuit Judges Schoeder and Owens
  • Full Text Opinion

The admission of photographs of seized evidence does not violate the Confrontation Clause because photographs are not “witnesses” against the defendant.

Rafiq Brooks was convicted on one count of conspiracy to possess marijuana with intent to distribute and two counts of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. The conviction was part of an investigation directed towards a group of individuals suspected of shipping marijuana through the mail. At trial, Jeff Agster (“Agster”), a US Postal Investigator, testified to a conversation he had with a postal worker, which connected Brooks to a parcel containing marijuana. The postal worker never testified. Brooks objected to this testimony, and to the admission of photographs depicting Agster’s search of the parcel, on Confrontation Clause grounds. The district court overruled the objection and Agster appealed. On appeal, the panel held that admission of photographs of a parcel seized at the post office did not violate the Confrontation Clause because the photographs were not “witnesses” against the defendant. The panel then held that the admission of statements by a postal supervisor, who did not testify, violated the Confrontation Clause because the statements were testimonial and offered for their truth, and there is no contention of unavailability or that the defendant had a prior opportunity to cross-examine the supervisor. AFFIRMED in part, REVERSED in part, and REMANDED.

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