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Vasquez v. United States

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: March 21, 2012
Case #: 11-199
Court Below: 635 F.3d 889 (7th Cir. 2011)
Full Text Opinion: http://www.ca7.uscourts.gov/tmp/GI1FG7KV.pdf

Evidence: Whether the Court of Appeals applied the correct standard for harmless error review, and whether the standard applied by the Seventh Circuit violated Petitioner's Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial.

A jury convicted petitioner Vasquez of conspiring to possess more than 500 grams of cocaine with intent to distribute. The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari to address whether the trial court committed reversible error when it improperly admitted for the truth recordings of telephone conversations between a defense witness and a co-defendant that referred to defense counsel’s advice that the defendant accept a plea because he would lose at trial.

On appeal, Petitioner argues that the Seventh Circuit applied an improper harmless error standard focused on whether other evidence on the record would have caused the jury to arrive at the same verdict rather than on the potential effect of the evidence on the jury. Petitioner further argues that the Court of Appeals usurped the role of the jury and violated his Sixth Amendment right to a trial by jury.