Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Official citation and/or docket number and footnotes (if any) for this case available with purchase.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.


United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

March 1, 2004.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: BERLE M. SCHILLER, District Judge


Presently before the Court are Defendant Johnnie Corley's motion to preclude the Government from introducing evidence of his prior convictions under Federal Rule of Evidence 609 and the Government's motion to admit one such conviction under Rule 404(b). For the reasons set out below, the Court grants Defendant's motion and denies the Government's motion.


  Defendant is charged with armed bank robbery, conspiracy to commit armed bank robbery, use of a firearm during a crime of violence, and aiding and abetting each of these offenses. Within the last ten years, he has been convicted of four crimes that he seeks to exclude from evidence: receiving stolen property; criminal conspiracy related to drug trafficking; possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute; and carrying a firearm without a license.*fn1 Page 2

  Federal Rule of Evidence 609 provides that evidence of a prior felony conviction within the preceding ten years may be used to impeach a defendant-witness "if the court determines that the probative value of admitting this evidence outweighs its prejudicial effect to the accused." FED. R. EVID. 609(a)(1). In addition, any conviction for a crime that "involved dishonesty or false statement" is per se admissible for impeachment purposes. FED. R. EVID. 609(a)(2).

  Defendant argues that the four convictions at issue are inadmissible under both 609(a)(2) and 609(a)(1) because these crimes were not crimen falsi and their prejudicial value outweighs their probative value. In response, the Government does not attempt to argue that any of the prior convictions are admissible under Rule 609(a)(2);*fn2 rather, the Government maintains that the convictions are probative of Defendant's credibility and should therefore be admitted under Rule 609(a)(1).

  The Third Circuit has stated that relevant factors in judging the probative value of prior convictions under Rule 609(a)(1) include: (1) the nature of the convictions; (2) the recentness of the convictions; (3) the importance of the defendant's testimony; and (4) the degree to which the defendant's credibility is central to the case. Gov't of Virgin Islands v. Bedford, 671 F.2d 758, 761 n.4 (3d Cir. 1982). In this case, the first factor weighs against admissibility because Defendant's prior convictions are for drug crimes, receipt of stolen property, and a firearms violation — crimes that Page 3 involve dangerous acts but do not bear significantly on Defendant's veracity under oath.*fn3 The second, third, and fourth factors weigh somewhat in favor of admissibility, for the convictions are as little as three years old, and Defendant's testimony and credibility will be important to the case should he choose to take the stand. Regarding the prejudicial impact, however, the receipt of stolen property and firearms charges are similar enough to the current charges of armed robbery and illegal use of a firearm that the prejudice resulting from their admission may be particularly severe, leading the jury to the impermissible inference that Defendant has a propensity to commit such crimes. United States v. Hems, 738 F.2d 88, 94 (3d Cir. 1984) (upholding trial court's exclusion of assault conviction due to its similarity to pending bank robbery charge); United States v. Paige, 464 F. Supp. 99, 100 (E.D. Pa. 1978) ("Because [admission of] the prior conviction would be highly prejudicial and improper, prior similar crimes generally are not admitted unless strong reasons exist for disclosure."). Admission of this evidence would therefore expose Defendant to one of the dangers that Rule 609(a)(1) was specifically designed to protect against. See FED. R. EVID. 609, Advisory Committee's Note to 1990 Amendments ("[T]he danger that prior convictions will be misused as character evidence is particularly acute when the defendant is impeached. . . ."). Thus, the Court finds that Defendant's prior convictions are inadmissible under Rule 609 because their prejudicial impact outweighs their probative value. Page 4


  The Government seeks to introduce into evidence Defendant's conviction for illegal gun possession under Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b). Rule 404(b) prohibits the introduction of prior acts or convictions "to prove the character of a person in order to show action in conformity therewith" but permits their use to prove that the defendant possessed, inter alia, the knowledge or intent required to convict him.

  The Government clearly seeks to introduce Defendant's prior conviction solely to show that he carried a gun during the bank robbery. As the Government's brief states: "The fact that Corley possessed a gun on a prior occasion shows he was familiar with firearms and not averse to handling them." (Govt's Resp. at Part IV (unpaginated).) Although the Government makes cursory attempts to cast this evidence as relevant to Defendant's intent or knowledge, these arguments are no more than conclusory statements irreconcilable with the Government's actual proposed use of the conviction, i.e. to prove that Defendant has a history of carrying illegal weapons in order to demonstrate actions in conformity with that history. Accordingly, this conviction is inadmissible under the plain text of Rule 404(b). United States v. Morley, 199 F.3d 129, 134 (3d Cir. 1999) (holding that admission of prior acts introduced to imply that defendant was guilty "merely because he had previously engaged in `similar' impropriety . . . is the very evil that Rule 404(b) seeks to prevent"); United States v. Scarfo, 850 F.2d 1015, 1019 (3d Cir. 1988) ("[W]e will `refuse to admit evidence of prior criminal acts which has no purpose except to infer a propensity or disposition to commit crime.'") (quoting Gov't of Virgin Islands v. Toto, 529 F.2d 278, 283 (3d Cir. 1976)); see also FED. R. EVID. 404, Advisory Committee's Note (describing types of character evidence prohibited by Rule). Page 5


  For the reasons stated above, the Court grants Defendant's motion to exclude his prior convictions under Federal Rule of Evidence 609 and denies the Government's motion to admit his firearm conviction under Rule 404(b). An appropriate Order follows. Page 6


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Official citation and/or docket number and footnotes (if any) for this case available with purchase.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.