United States v. Danzey Case Brief

Summary of United States v. Danzey, 594 F.2d 905 (1990)

Facts: Df, admitted to several robberies that occurred within four months before and three months after the current robbery charge, and he admitted to a specific modus operandi. Prior to any witness testimony the trial judge ruled that it would admit evidence of the Df’s prior admissions to similar acts to show identity.

Issue: Whether the trial court erred in allowing the government to introduce evidence of Df’s admissions to similar criminal acts for the purpose of showing identity?

Holding: No.

Procedure: Jury convicted Df of robbery.

Rule: When the very act charged is still to be proven, one of the evidentiary facts receivable is the person’s design, system, or plan to do it is demonstrated by his having committed other acts almost identical to the act charged. By a natural concurrence of common features the acts are naturally explained as being caused by a general plan of which they are the individual manifestations.

Rationale: It was clear to the trial judge before the case began that the only issue was the identity of the robbers. There is no way for the Df to remove the identity issue from the case short of admitting his participation. There is a high degree of similarity between the robberies admitted to and the one charged here, that the other crimes lead to the logical inference, by virtue of the combination of common features, that a common plan or design was at the basis for all the robberies and hence that it was the Df who committed this robbery. The Government is permitted to introduce similar act evidence, although relevant to identity (proof that the defendant did the criminal act), but not if the evidence is relevant merely to show intent. At a minimum, the govt must prove that this Df committed the crime he is on trial for, so that identity evidence may properly constitute part of its case in chief, even if there will be a defense case.

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