Law School Case Brief
Gov't of V.I. v. Roldan - 612 F.2d 775 (3d Cir. 1979)
Whenever counsel does not submit an oral or written request to charge a limiting instruction regarding the use of specific evidence and affirmatively states that the defendant's counsel agrees with the court's instructions, the failure of the district court to give a cautionary instruction is not plain error and therefore does not require reversal of the defendant's conviction.
Roldan was convicted in the United States District Court for the District of the Virgin Islands of first degree murder under 14 V.I. Code Ann. § 922(a)(1) and was sentenced to life imprisonment based upon evidence that included blood that was found on defendant and in and round defendant's house and a bloody machete, which fit the murder weapon, that was found in defendant's outhouse. Defendant appealed. Roldan claimed that the district court's erred by admitting his prior murder conviction and there was insufficient evidence to support premeditation and deliberation for his first degree murder conviction. Prosecution claimed that it was entitled to prove defendant's prior murder conviction when a witness being questioned by defendant's counsel testified that the defendant never bothered anybody and defendant's counsel failed to request a limiting jury instruction on the use of the testimony.
Did the district court err in admitting Roldan’s prior murder conviction presented by the prosecution in order to impeach the witness who had offered character testimony about Roldan?
The court affirmed Roldan's conviction and held that under Fed. R. Evid. 405 prosecution was entitled to offer defendant's prior murder conviction for the purpose of impeaching the witness, who had offered character testimony about defendant, and defendant's counsel's failure to request a limiting instruction to the jury regarding the use of defendant's prior conviction caused the district court's failure to provide a limiting instruction to not be plain error and cause a reversal of the conviction. The court further held that premeditation was proven by circumstantial evidence and the proof of defendant's efforts to hide evidence of the murder was sufficient to support premeditation.
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