The Law School Authority

United States v. Carrillo Case Brief

Summary of United States v. Carrillo, 981 F.2d 772 (5th Cir. 1993)

Facts:  D was charged with selling cocaine packed in balloon to an undercover officer.  D used the alibi defense and claimed that he did not sell the drugs to the undercover officer.  Government introduced evidence of 2 prior drug sales by D to officers to prove the identity of D based on modus operandi.  The trial court allowed this evidence and D was convicted.

Issue:  Was the admission of evidence in such circumstances valid?

Holding: No

Rationale:  Under Rule 404(b), evidence of prior criminal conduct may not be used to present the bad character of the D and his propensity to commit such crimes.  But evidence of prior crimes can be used if the prosecution shows that the crime in question is so similar to D’s other crimes that it is unique to the D.  Here, selling drugs in balloons is a common practice and is not unique to the D as to make it his handiwork.  Therefore, the evidence was used to show D’s propensity to commit such drug crimes and such use of prior crimes evidences is prohibited under Rule 404(b).

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