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United States v. Patterson

October 21, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Surrick, J.


Presently before the Court are the Government's Motion in Limine to Use Defendant's Prior Convictions (Doc. No. 17) and Defendant's Motion in Limine to Exclude any Evidence of Prior Convictions Pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 609 (Doc. No. 20). For the following reasons, the Government's Motion will be granted in part and denied in part and Defendant's Motion will be granted in part and denied.


On July 30, 2009, a federal grand jury indicted Defendant Emanuel E. Patterson for his alleged involvement in the December 19, 2008, robbery of the Sovereign Bank located at 125 South Providence Road in Media, Pennsylvania. The indictment charges Defendant with one count of conspiracy to commit bank robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371, one count of armed bank robbery in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(d), and one count of carrying and using a firearm during a crime of violence in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1). The Government alleges that Defendant and two co-conspirators, Michael Hawkins and Rahsaan Lahvon Ford, agreed to rob the Sovereign Bank. Defendant was to be the getaway driver.

On the morning of the robbery, Defendant drove Hawkins and Ford to Media. As he was driving, Defendant's car was pulled over by police. The police impounded the car because Defendant did not have a driver's license. Hawkins and Ford continued with their plan to rob the bank. At about 10:00 a.m., Hawkins and Ford entered the Sovereign Bank. Hawkins produced a semiautomatic pistol, pointed it at bank employees and customers, and ordered everyone to get on the floor. In the meantime, Ford went behind the counter and put approximately $78,142 in cash into a plastic bag. When Ford finished filling the bag, he and Hawkins exited the bank with the cash. They decided to use public transportation to escape. Hawkins and Ford boarded a trolley at a trolley stop near the bank. They were apprehended by the police, who waited for them at a later trolley stop and arrested them. Defendant was not in the bank during the robbery and he was not apprehended with Hawkins and Ford.

At a hearing held on October 9, 2009, Defendant's counsel indicated that "it is likely that [Defendant] will testify in this case." (Oct. 9 Hr'g Tr. 6.) In 1995, Defendant was convicted of (1) carrying a firearm without a license, (2) criminal conspiracy, and (3) robbery arising from a single incident. Defendant was sentenced in January 1995 and paroled in February 2000. The parties now contest whether evidence of Defendant's prior convictions may be admitted under Federal Rule of Evidence 609.


The Government moves to have all three of Defendant's prior convictions admitted into evidence under Federal Rule of Evidence 609(a)(1). (Doc. No. 17 at 1.) Defendant moves to exclude evidence of all of Defendant's prior convictions under Rule 609 because their prejudicial effect outweighs their probative value. (Doc. No. 20 at 8.) We conclude that the robbery conviction is admissible but that the conspiracy and gun charges are inadmissible.

Rule 609(a)(1) provides that "[f]or the purpose of attacking the character for truthfulness of a witness . . . evidence that an accused has been convicted of such a crime shall be admitted 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). Rule 609(a)(2) provides that "evidence that any witness has been convicted of a crime shall be admitted regardless of the punishment, if it readily can be determined that establishing the elements of the crime required proof or admission of an act of dishonesty or false statement by the witness." Fed. R. Evid. 609(a)(2). In addition, Rule 609(b) places a higher standard on the admissibility of prior convictions for purposes of impeachment where "a period of more than ten years has elapsed since the date of the conviction or of the release of the witness from the confinement imposed for that conviction, whichever is the later date . . . ." Fed. R. Evid. 609(b).

Rule 609(a)(1) governs our analysis here. The crimes for which Defendant was previously convicted do not readily appear to require proof of acts of dishonesty or false statement. See 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3701 (setting forth essential elements of robbery); id. § 6106 (setting forth essential elements of carrying a concealed firearm without a license); id. § 903 (setting forth essential elements of conspiracy); see also Walker v. Horn, 385 F.3d 321, 334 (3d Cir. 2004) (holding that the "district court erred by holding that robbery is a crime involving dishonesty that is automatically admissible under Rule 609(a)(2)");*fn1 United States v. Cox, 159 F. App'x 654, 658 (6th Cir. 2005) (observing that "carrying a concealed weapon is not a crime involving dishonesty per se"). Accordingly, admission of Defendant's prior convictions is not governed by Rule 609(a)(2). See Cree v. Hatcher, 969 F.2d 34, 38 (3d Cir. 1992) ("The proper test for admissibility under Rule 609(a)(2) does not measure the severity or reprehensibility of the crime, but rather focuses on the witness's propensity for falsehood, deceit, or deception."). Likewise, Rule 609(b) does not govern our analysis here because Defendant was paroled in February 2000, less than ten years ago. See Fed. R. Evid. 609(b).

"Rule 609(a)(1) is absolutely clear and explicit in requiring the trial court, before admitting evidence of a prior conviction, to make a determination," under Rule 403, "that the probative value of the evidence outweighs its prejudicial effect to the defendant." Virgin Islands v. Bedford, 671 F.2d 758, 761 (3d Cir. 1982). The Third Circuit has instructed district courts to consider several factors when determining whether the probative value of a prior conviction outweighs its probative effect. These factors include, "(1) the kind of crime involved, (2) when the conviction occurred, (3) the importance of the witness' testimony to the case, and (4) the importance of the credibility of the defendant." United States v. Greenidge, 495 F.3d 85, 98 (3d Cir. 2007) (citing Bedford, 671 F.2d at 761 n.4).

A. Robbery

In the light of the Bedford factors, the probative value of admitting Defendant's prior robbery conviction will outweigh the prejudicial effect to Defendant. See, e.g., United States v. Stevens, S1 03 Cr. 669, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17892, at *8 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 7, 2004) ("The probative value of admitting [the defendant's prior] robbery conviction, or attempted robbery conviction 'outweighs its prejudicial effect to the accused.'" (quoting Rule 609(a)(1))), aff'd 219 F. App'x 108 (2d Cir. 2007). We consider the factors in the order of their importance to our decision.

The fourth factor weighs heavily in favor of admitting evidence of Defendant's prior conviction for robbery because it is probative of Defendant's credibility. "While robbery does not carry the probative significance of a crimen falsi, it is nonetheless a crime that reflects on an individual's veracity . . . ." United States v. Golson, Crim. No. 08-85, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2325, at *20 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 14, 2009) (footnote omitted).*fn2 If Defendant chooses to testify, his testimony will be of great importance to the case and his credibility will be central to the jury's weighing of the evidence. See United States v. Perkins, 937 F.2d 1397, 1406 (9th Cir. 1991) ("[T]he admission under Rule 609 of a bank robbery conviction in a bank robbery trial is not an abuse of discretion when the conviction serves a proper impeachment purpose, such as when the defendant's testimony and credibility are central to the case.") (citation omitted). In this case, the Government has indicated that it intends to call witnesses who will testify that Defendant gave a written statement regarding his involvement in the December 19, 2008, bank ...

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