Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Joe Cool conviction affirmed...

... in a short non-published opinion, without oral argument. It seems to me that an appellate court should at least have oral argument after a trial that results in a life sentence. I mean, it's just a half an hour to hear argument. Just saying.

In other 11th Circuit news, the court found that a district court errs by admitting a defendant's MySpace page. But, of course, it was harmless, and the defendant's conviction and sentence (of 2005 months) was affirmed. From the opinion:

The MySpace evidence is not evidence of identity: that is, evidence that Phaknikone robbed
banks like a gangster. The subscriber report proved nothing more than
Phaknikone’s nickname, the only name by which Lavivong had already testified he
knew Phaknikone. The profile photographs accompanying the subscriber report
and the photograph of Phaknikone and his ex-wife at a social event offer nothing to
support a modus operandi about the bank robberies. The photograph of a tattooed
Phaknikone, his face completely visible, in a car, holding a handgun sideways in
his right hand, and with a child as a passenger, proves only that Phaknikone, on an
earlier occasion, possessed a handgun in the presence of a child. Although the
photograph may portray a “gangster-type personality,” the photograph does not
evidence the modus operandi of a bank robber who commits his crimes with a
signature trait. The MySpace evidence is not evidence of a modus operandi and is

inadmissible to prove identity.

Because the MySpace evidence fails the first requirement of the Miller test,
we need not address its second and third requirements. The MySpace evidence is
classic evidence of bad character, which was offered by the government to prove
only “action in conformity therewith.” Fed. R. Evid. 404(b). The government
wanted the jury to infer that, because Phaknikone is willing to publish these kinds
of photographs online, under an incendiary alias, he is a gangster who is likely to
rob banks. The district court abused its discretion by admitting the MySpace

I have always wondered what would happen if a district court read this opinion and then said -- well, I know it's error, but it's harmless so I will admit it.

The comments were active yesterday in the debate about the probation office. Good stuff.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have seen the government cite cases that found harmless error as a basis for a court to admit evidence.