EvidenceProf Blog

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

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Copping A Plea: 11th Circuit Addresses Admissibility Of Plea Discussions At Sentencing

Federal Rule of Evidence 410(4) provides that

In a civil or criminal case, evidence of the following is not admissible against the defendant who made the plea or participated in the plea discussions:

(4) a statement made during plea discussions with an attorney for the prosecuting authority if the discussions did not result in a guilty plea or they resulted in a later-withdrawn guilty plea.

It is well established that the rules of evidence generally do not apply at the sentencing stage of trial. But does this hold true with regard to Rule 410(4)? Let's take a look at the recent opinion of the Eleventh Circuit in United States v. Davis, 2012 WL 118444 (11th Cir. 2012).

In Davis, Karriece Quontrel Davis appealed from a district court's denial of his postjudgment Motion to Enforce Specific Performance of the Plea Agreement. That plea agreement was in connection with charges against him for possession of counterfeit currency with intent to defraud, and Davis claimed, inter alia, that the government breached the plea agreement by using protected statements he uttered during his debriefing sessions at sentencing.

In addressing Davis' argument, the Eleventh Circuit noted that 

Federal Rule of Evidence 410 states that any statement made during the course of guilty plea proceedings or plea discussions with the prosecution that do not result in an ultimate plea are inadmissible against the defendant in criminal proceedings. In addition, the Sentencing Guidelines provide that when the Government agrees that self-incriminating information provided pursuant to the cooperation agreement will not be used against the defendant, such information "shall not be used in determining the applicable guideline range, except to the extent provided in the agreement."

In the end, though, the problem for Davis was that

the Government agreed not to use the statements Davis made pursuant to the agreement only if Davis satisfied the terms and conditions of the agreement. Davis did not comply with the terms because he did not fully cooperate with the Government; therefore, the Government did not violate the plea agreement.



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