United States v. Biggins

551 F.2d 64 (5th Cir. 1977)



The party introducing sound recordings at trial must establish that (1) the recording device was capable of taking the conversation now offered in evidence; (2) the operator of the device was competent to operate the device; (3) the recording is authentic and correct; (4) changes, additions or deletions have not been made in the recording; (5) the recording has been preserved in a manner that is shown to the court; (6) the speakers are identified; and (7) the conversation elicited was made voluntarily and in good faith, without any kind of inducement.


Clarence Lydes was a confidential informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration. Lydes met Biggin, the appellant, at a bar and discussed with him the possibility of obtaining narcotics. Appellant told Lydes to contact him through Bertha Coudgo. On May 19, 1975, Lydes went to Coudgo's apartment to purchase narcotics from the appellant. Lydes's apartment was monitored by means of electronic surveillance. From his vantage point in an apartment across the street, Agent John Anderson of the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Department monitored and recorded the conversation that ensued within Lydes's apartment. During the course of that conversation, the appellant sold Wells one ounce of heroin for $1,500. Shortly thereafter, Wells obtained laboratory confirmation that the substance he had purchased was heroin. At the appellant's trial, the government introduced the original tape recording of the conversation in Lydes's apartment and a re-recording of the original tape, ostensibly filtered for noise. After a brief jury trial, the appellant was given concurrent three year sentences; he subsequently appealed his conviction, contending that there was an insufficient foundation to admit the recordings into evidence against him.


Did the trial court err in its decision to admit the tapes, which were ostensibly filtered for noise, into evidence against the appellant?




The Court held that the district judge acted correctly in admitting sound recordings into evidence because although it was deficient in some ways, there was sufficient evidence of the recording's authenticity outside of foundation testimony. The court determined that the recording portrayed the conversation precisely as described by witnesses who took part in the conversation.

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