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Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Redacted: Supreme Court of Georgia Finds Redacted Co-Defendant Confession Poses No Problem Under Bruton

Pursuant to the Bruton doctrine, there is a Confrontation Clause violation when, at a joint jury trial, the prosecution introduces a co-defendant's statement that facially incriminates another defendant unless the co-defendant testifies at trial. That said, in Richardson v. Marsh, 481 U.S. 200 (1987), the Supreme Court held that

that the Confrontation Clause is not violated by the admission of a nontestifying codefendant's confession with a proper limiting instruction when, as here, the confession is redacted to eliminate not only the defendant's name, but any reference to his or her existence.

This was the fundametal problem for the defendant in Teasley v. State, 2013 WL 5508603 (Ga. 2013).

In Teasley

Emory Teasley and his brothers Christopher (“Chris”) and Tyrone Teasley were indicted and tried together and found guilty of all charges: the malice murder, felony murder, and aggravated assault of James Riden; the aggravated assault of Markez Jones; possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime; and tampering with evidence.

After he was convicted, Emory appealed, claiming, inter alia, that the trial court erred by allowing the prosecution to admit Chris's incriminatory statement despite the fact that Chris didn't testify at trial. The Supreme Court of Georgia, however, found that this argument was without merit because Chris's statement was redacted so that it removed any reference to Emory, consistent with Richardson v. Marsh. The Court then listed both Chris's initial statement and the redacted statement read to the jury:

Original Statement

Emory was at the Big H. Markez and James pull up in a white Range Rover. Markez asks Emory what happened with Jarvis. Emory explains to Markez about what happened with Jarvis. Markez hits Emory. James and Markez each pull out a pistol. James has a chrome 9 millimeter or .380 or .45. Markez has a baby 9 millimeter or a .380. There's a standoff, and Emory tells them to put the gun down. Everything shifts to the side of the building. James and Markez both shoot their guns. The first shot came at Emory. Emory heard eight to nine shots.

Redacted Statement

Chris went to the Big H. Chris was standing by the trash can five to six feet from the door of the Big H. Chris did not see James or Markez arrive. Markez came around the corner. Without a word, Markez throws a punch. Immediately after the punch, Markez and James reach for guns. James did not shoot his gun. Chris makes no mention of Markez shooting his gun. Chris heard two shots. James and Markez run away. Chris runs and gets in his car. Chris drives away.

-CM

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/evidenceprof/2013/10/bruton-teasley-v-state-se2d-2013-wl-5508603ga2013.html

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