Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Supervised release revocation vacated

US v. Doswell:  In this appeal of a supervised release revocation, the Fourth Circuit vacated and remanded a decision based on hearsay evidence relied upon at Doswell’s revocation hearing, a decision which failed to comply with Fed. R. Crim. P. 32.1(b)(2)(C).

"Rule 32.1 (b)(2)(C) specifically requires that prior to the admission of hearsay testimony in the supervised release revocation setting, that the district court must balance the releasee’s interest in confronting adverse witnesses against any proffered good cause for denying such confrontation." While reliability of the evidence remains a critical factor in this balancing test, hearsay evidence of questionable reliability will not provide sufficient basis for denying a releasee the opportunity to cross-examine an adverse witness.

The "questionably reliable" evidence the Government put forth in this case was a chemist’s report on the drug analysis of some seized capsules suspected of containing heroin, though the chemist who authored the report failed twice to appear in state court proceedings to verify the reliability of the report; the state court charge was nol prossed upon the chemist’s failure to appear. Despite that, the Government asserted that this charge alone (notwithstanding Doswell’s other alleged supervised release violations) mandated revocation of Doswell’s supervised release. The Fourth Circuit disagreed, and remanded the case to the district court for proceedings in accordance with this opinion.

Way to go, Baltimore Office of the Federal Public Defender!!

No comments: