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Fed. R. Evid. 403 provides: Although relevant, evidence may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury, or by considerations of undue delay, waste of time, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence. Also, Fed. R. Evid. 404(b) provides: Evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove the character of a person in order to show that he acted in conformity therewith. It may, however, be admissible for other purposes, such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident. Evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts that is vague and speculative is not admissible under Fed. R. Evid. 404(b).
Defendant Leonard Peltier and three other individuals were charged with the murders of two Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Two of the co-defendants were acquitted by a jury and the government dismissed the charges against the third. However, defendant was convicted on two counts of first-degree murder, in violation of 18 U.S.C.S. §§ 2, 1111, 1114. Defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment on each count with the sentences to run consecutively. Defendant now appealed his convictions averring that certain evidence introduced at trial was so prejudicial and inflammatory that its admission constituted a denial of due process, that the trial court refusal to instruct the jury on his defense and to allow him to introduce available evidence of F.B.I. misconduct deprived him of a fair trial and of his right to compulsory process; that the trial court's refusal to reread testimony requested by the jury constituted an abuse of discretion; that the trial court had no jurisdiction to try him because the United States Government deliberately violated the Webster-Ashburton Treaty; and that the prosecution was barred by the doctrine of collateral estoppel.
Was the defendant’s conviction proper?
The court affirmed defendant's convictions and sentences. The court affirmed the judgment and held that there was a sufficient number of evidentiary manifestations to make evidence of flight and of resistance to arrest highly probative under Fed. R. Evid. 403, 404(b) of defendant's consciousness of guilt. Further, the court ruled that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in refusing certain jury instructions and refusing to reread testimony requested by the jury. Because defendant was not a party to the criminal proceedings of his co-defendants, the doctrine of collateral estoppel was not applicable.