U.S. v. Amaya Case Brief

Summary of U.S. v. Amaya, 533 F.2d 188 (1976)

Relevant Facts: Df was convicted of conspiracy to distribute heroin, and in between remanded trial and the original, a witness for the govt was injured in an auto accident. That witness was left without the ability to recall his previous testimony. The govt introduced his prior testimony.

Legal Issue(s): Whether the trial judge erred in deciding that the witness was unavailable for trial before a determination as to the permanence of the injury?

Court’s Holding: No, the trial ct correctly decided on the evidence that the witness was unavailable.

Procedure: Conviction following a second trial on remand. The first conviction was overturned b/c of an improper jury instruction. Affirmed.

Law or Rule(s): Unavailability of a witness is an exception to the hearsay rule where the declarant is unable to be present or to testify at the hearing b/c of death or then existing physical or mental illness or infirmity.

Court Rationale: The duration of an illness is a proper element of a determination of unavailability, but the establishment of permanence as to the particular illness is not an absolute requirement. The duration of the illness need only be in probability long enough so that, with proper regard for the importance of the testimony, the trial cannot be postponed. With memory loss there is no guarantee that the witness’ memory will ever return. The trial ct did not err.

Plaintiff’s Argument:

Defendant’s Argument: The witness was never conclusively shown to be unavailable because it was never established by expert testimony that his lack of memory was permanent.

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