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United States v. Diaz

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 20, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
EVANS SAMUEL SANTOS DIAZ, Defendant

          MEMORANDUM

          MALACHY E. MANNION United States District Judge

         I. BACKGROUND

         By way of relevant background, on October 25, 2016, defendant Diaz, along with five others, were indicted and charged in a Superseding Indictment. Diaz was charged with conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances, namely, heroin, cocaine hydrochloride and cocaine base (crack), in violation of 21 U.S.C. §846, (Count 1), and distribution of a controlled substance, namely, heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. §841(a)(1), (Count 4). (Doc. 109).[1]

         On October 28, 2016, defendant Diaz was arraigned and pled not guilty to both counts against him in the Superseding Indictment. (Doc. 121). The defendant Diaz's detention from April 13, 2016 was continued.

         On April 28, 2017, the Government filed a motion in limine, (Doc. 206), seeking to admit evidence of defendant Diaz's prior felony conviction regarding a 2011 Pennsylvania charge of robbery for purposes of impeaching Diaz if he testifies at trial.

         Defendant Diaz did not file a brief in opposition to the government's motion and the deadline for doing so has passed pursuant to MDPA LR 7.7. Regardless, the court will consider the merits of the Government's motion since it must conduct a balancing test and analyze the applicable Bedford factors.[2]

         II. DISCUSSION

         The Government's motion is filed pursuant to Fed.R.Evid. 609(a)(1)(B).

         Federal Rule of Evidence 609 pertains to the use of prior convictions for impeachment purposes and provides:

         The following rules apply to attacking a witness's character for truthfulness by evidence of a criminal conviction:

(1) for a crime that, in the convicting jurisdiction, was punishable by death or by imprisonment for more than one year, the evidence:
(B) must be admitted in a criminal case in which the witness is a defendant, if the probative value of the evidence outweighs its prejudicial effect to that defendant[.]

Fed.R.Evid. 609(a)(1)(B).

         “Rule 609 permits evidence of a prior felony conviction to be offered to impeach a testifying witness. However, when the testifying witness is also the defendant in a criminal trial, the prior conviction is admitted only ‘if the probative value of the evidence outweighs its prejudicial effect to that defendant.'” U.S. v. Caldwell, 760 F.3d 267, 286 (3d Cir. 2014) (citing Fed.R.Evid. 609(a)(1)(B)). As such, the Third Circuit has held that this Rule “reflects a heightened balancing test” with a “predisposition toward exclusion” and, that “[a]n exception [to exclusion of the evidence] is made only where the prosecution shows that the evidence makes a tangible contribution to the evaluation of credibility and that the usual high risk of unfair prejudice is not present.” Id. ...


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