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Law School Case Brief

United States v. Monteleone - 77 F.3d 1086 (8th Cir. 1996)

Rule:

The prosecutor must do more than simply establish a good faith belief that the incidents to which the questions alluded actually occurred. The prosecutor must possess a good faith belief that the described events are of a type likely to have become a matter of general knowledge, currency, or reputation in the community.

Facts:

Defendant's gun was confiscated in a search of his stepbrother's residence after his stepbrother attempted to sell a gun to an undercover officer. When defendant attempted to retrieve his gun from the authorities, he stated he gave the gun to his stepbrother to fix. He was then indicted for disposing of a firearm to a convicted felon. Over defendant's objection, the district court allowed prosecution to inquire whether defendant's character witness had heard that defendant perjured himself before a grand jury. Defendant appealed his conviction. 

Issue:

Did the district court abuse its discretion when it allowed prosecution to question a defendant's character witness concerning his knowledge of allegedly perjurious statements made by defendant?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The court reversed defendant's conviction for disposing of a firearm to a convicted felon, concluding that the prosecution did not have a good faith basis for believing that defendant's conduct before a federal grand jury was likely to have been known in the relevant community. Instead, prosecution should have known that the testimony of a witness before a federal grand jury was protected by an obligation of secrecy and, therefore, it was patently unlikely that the public would have become aware of defendant's testimony. As such, the district court abused its discretion when it allowed prosecution to question his character witness concerning his knowledge of allegedly perjurious statements made by defendant before a federal grand jury; to put another way, the prosecution did not have a good faith basis for believing the conduct was known in the relevant community.

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