The Law School Authority

U.S. v. Reynolds Case Brief

Summary of U.S. v. Reynolds, 715 F.2d 99 (1983)

Relevant Facts:  The US Postal Service was gathering information related to the theft of certain checks from the mail.  It was informed that the Dfs had obtained photo I.D. cards, but they did not appear to known what name or number to put on the cards.  Inspectors observed the two leave and walk down the street.  One of the Dfs entered the bank, but the teller refused to cash the check b/c he didn’t have an account.  He was arrested as he left.  After his arrest, the Df stated to the other “I didn’t tell them anything about you . . .”

Legal Issue(s): Whether testimony from a postal inspector as to the statement Df Reynolds allegedly made after his arrest was prejudicial hearsay?

Court’s Holding: The statement was not offered for the purpose of proving its express meaning, it was offered for the implied assertion that one Df was involved in the crimes for which the two were charged and tried. The statements were hearsay and inadmissible.

Procedure: 2 Dfs were both charged and convicted for conspiracy to possess and possession stolen unemployment checks from the mail;

Law or Rule(s):   Evidence is inadmissible hearsay if its probative value depends on the truth of any assertion of fact it contains or on the credibility of someone not available for contemporaneous cross examination and if it does not fall within one of the exceptions to the hearsay rule.

Court Rationale: Out of court utterances are not always hearsay. If the significance of an offered statement lies solely in the fact that it was made, no issue is raised as to the truth of anything asserted, and the statement is not hearsay. (801[c]).  Statements containing express assertions may also contain implied assertions qualifying as hearsay.  Here, the Df’s statement is ambiguous and susceptible to different interpretations.  Depending on the interpretation given, it is either probative or not.  As used by the govt the utterance goes past the fact that it was made, it exceeds proof that the Df could speak, or that a statement was directed toward another df.   The govt offered the statement to prove the truth of the assumed fact of the df’s guilt by its implied content.  In Dutton v. Evans, the S.Ct. held that statements which plainly imply that a Df is guilty of a crime for which he is on trial are hearsay, if made out of court and the declarant is not subject to contemporaneous cross examination in court.

Plaintiff’s Argument: The statement was not admitted to prove that Reynolds did not say anything about the other; instead it was admitted to prove the conspiracy to defraud as well as the co-df’s joint participation in the crimes.  The statement is probative of Df’s guilt.

Defendant’s Argument: It was reversible error to admit into evidence co-defendant’s oral statement implicating the other.

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