The Law School Authority

United States v. Flecha Case Brief

Summary of United States v. Flecha, 539 F.2d 874 (2d Cir. 1976)

Relevant Facts: Appellant was charged and convicted by a jury along with Marin, Suarex, Gonzalez, and Banguera for importation, possession, and intent to distribute marijuana after the DEA observed the individuals unloading bales of the drug of a ship docked in NY.  After the DEA rounded the individuals up, Gonzalez made a statement in Spanish implicating Flecha of which Flecha remained silent.

Legal Issue(s): Whether a criminal Df’s silence is a statement of which he has adopted as a party admission, and therefore properly admitted?

Court’s Holding: Not under the circumstances, but it was only harmless error here.

Procedure: Jury conviction; Ct. of App Affirmed, b/c error was harmless.

Law or Rule(s): A statement, (oral, written, or conduct), of which the party has manifested an adoption or belief in its truth is deemed a party admission.

Court Rationale: Before receiving an admission by silence the court must determine, inter alia, whether the party is in such a situation that he is at liberty to make any reply and whether the statement is made under such circumstances as naturally to call for a reply if he did not intend to admit it.  The Df was under arrest, and it is clear that arrested people know without benefit of Miranda warnings that silence is usually golden.  It was natural for the Df to say nothing.  U.S.  v. Lo Biondo, the court held tha where two dfs were under arrest, and one responds to official questions with an answer implicating the other, the second does not have to deny the statement and his failure to do so does not make the statement admissible against him.  Unless Flecha adopted Gonzalez’ statement by silence, Gonzalez’ statement was hearsay b/c he cannot provide a description of Flecha’s state of mind.

Pl’s A: Gonzalez’ statement was not admitted for its truth, but rather for what it showed about Gonzalez’ and Flecha’s state of mind, and therefore it was not hearsay.

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