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Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Avoiding A Confrontation, Take 2: The Result Of The Trial In Which Nontestimonial Hearsay Was Excluded Under Bruton

Last October, I posted an entry about the opinion of the opinion of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in United States v. Williams, 2010 WL 3909480 (E.D.Va. 2010). In Williams, Marvin Wayne Williams, Jr., Freddie Wigenton, and Deshawn Anderson were charged with conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine, intentional killing while engaged in drug trafficking, and use of a firearm during a drug offense relating in death. And, as I noted, the Eastern District of Virginia became one of the few courts to hold that the Bruton doctrine covers nontestimonial hearsay after Crawford. (Early next week, I should be posting my article on this topic). So, what became of the defendants in Williams? Well as the recent opinion of the Eastern District of Virginia in United States v. Williams, 2011 WL 830289 (E.D. Va. 2011), reveals, they were convicted of conspiracy to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine and use of a firearm during a drug trafficking offense resulting in the death of Kyle Turner, but they were acquitted on the charge of intentional killing while engaged in drug trafficking. And there was at least on interesting evidentiary issue on appeal.

In Williams, Anderson brought Motions for Judgments of Acquittal on behalf of all three defendants. One of the grounds for Anderson's motion was that the only evidence supporting his participation in the drug conspiracy was the testimony of Annette Sprow. The relevant testimony was as follows:
Q. Let me ask you about Buddha or Defendant Anderson. What would he sell?
A. Crack.
Q. Who was he getting the crack from?
A. Me. 

According to Anderson, "the inference from Sprow's testimony that Anderson actually sold cocaine [wa]s inadmissible hearsay." The Eastern District of Virginia disagreed, concluding, "[t]he Court fails to see how this is hearsay; it goes to what Anderson did, not what he said (not to mention Federal Rule of Evidence 801(d)(2)(E)'s co-conspirator statement exception)." This makes sense to me. Even if Sprow did testify that, for instance, Anderson asked him for drugs, Anderson's statement would have been made during the course of and in furtherance of the conspiracy to traffic in drugs, which would have made it a co-conspirator admission.

-CM

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/evidenceprof/2011/03/co-conspirator-us-v-williamsslip-copy-2011-wl-830289edva2011.html

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