Huddleston v. United States Case Brief

Summary of Huddleston v. United States, 485 U.S. 681 (1988)

Facts: D was charged with sale of stolen video tapes. D argued that he received the tapes from someone else and he was not aware that the tapes were stolen. Prosecution present a witness who testified that he had bought stolen TV sets from D. Also, an undercover agent testified that D had agreed to sell stolen merchandise to him. D was not charged and convicted for these previous crimes. D claims that before such evidence can be used, the prosecution must prove by preponderance of the evidence that the other crimes did in fact take place. So in this case, D claims that the prosecution must prove that the merchandise in the previous acts was stolen.

Issue: Whether the district court must itself make a preliminary finding that the government has proved the other act by a preponderance of the evidence before it submits the evidence to the jury?

Holding: No

Rationale: Rule 404(b) protects against the introduction of extrinsic act evidence when that evidence is offered solely to prove character. The text contains no intimation, however, that any preliminary showing is necessary before such evidence may be introduced for a proper purpose. Rule allows admission of evidence which is relevant subject to limitations. In this case, the evidence that D was selling the televisions was relevant under the government’s theory only if the jury could reasonably find that the televisions were stolen. Here there were facts form which the jury could have made such conclusion. Also, there are safeguards which deal with D’s concern that unduly prejudicial evidence may be introduced under Rule 404(b). Rule 404(b) provides that evidence be offered for a proper purpose. Rule 402 provides the relevancy requirement. Rule 403 requires the trial court to determine whether the probative value of the similar acts evidence is substantially outweighed by its potential for unfair prejudice. Federal Rule 105 provides that trial court shall, upon request, instruct the jury that the similar acts evidence is to be considered only for the proper purpose for which it was admitted.

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