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Fed. R. Evid. 610 provides: Evidence of the beliefs or opinions of a witness on matters of religion is not admissible for the purpose of showing that by reason of their nature the witness' credibility is impaired or enhanced. The rule proscribes the impeachment of witnesses based upon their religious beliefs. However, inquiry into religious beliefs for the purpose of showing interest or bias because of them is not within the prohibition.
Defendants were convicted for securities fraud. On appeal, defendants contended that the district court improperly excluded evidence of bias by a government witness. The defendants further contended that the district court improperly charged the jury as to the necessary elements of a securities violation.
Under the circumstances, should the court reverse the defendants’ convictions?
The court affirmed the defendants’ convictions. First, a government witnesses' religious views were not probative of bias pursuant to Fed. R. Evid. 610. The witness testified that he was reluctant to testify for the prosecution and that his religious views did not contribute to his decision to testify. Second, the charge to the jury regarding the misappropriation theory for securities fraud under Rule 10b-5, 17 C.F.R. § 241.10b-5, was harmless. Viewing the jury charge in its entirety and based upon the record, it was unnecessary to determine whether proof of securities fraud required a causal connection, because any alleged defect in the instruction was harmless beyond doubt.