United States v. Booz

451 F.2d 719 (3d Cir. 1971)

 

RULE:

When affirmative proof, best known by the defendant himself, is offered, a likelihood exists that jurors would look to that proof for persuasion of its truth. But the correct approach is that such proof need only raise a reasonable doubt in the jurors' minds as to whether defendant was present at the scene.

FACTS:

On April 18, 1967, two armed men robbed the Dublin, Pennsylvania branch of the Bucks County Bank & Trust Company of $8,950.75. Edward George Booz was charged by the government to be one of the robbers. No other suspect has been charged. Included in the stolen money were twenty-five bait bills whose serial numbers had been recorded. On June 12, 1967, the Booz deposited a large sum of money in the Girard Trust Bank which included eighteen of the bait bills. On June 14, 1967, FBI Agents executed a search warrant at Booz's home but apparently obtained no additional evidence. Approximately fourteen months later, Booz was indicted by a grand jury for violating the Federal Bank Robbery Act. Approximately two years and five months after indictment, he was brought to trial, convicted by a jury and sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment. The government's evidence showed that Booz had substantial opportunity to become acquainted with the pre-opening procedures of the bank's personnel, including the opening of the bank vault. The government’s evidence further showed that appellant's financial distress at about the time of the crime might have induced him to take this drastic step and that unusual activity in the area between Booz's home and the bank tended to place the perpetrators in that general area and hence, near appellant's home. Moreover, according to the government, the Booz was seen in this area a few days after the robbery, perhaps to retrieve a hat, earlier found left at the scene. It was introduced in evidence and subsequently identified at trial as having been worn by one of the robbers.

ISSUE:

Taking into account the evidence presented by the government against Booz, was he properly convicted of violating the Federal Bank Robbery Act?

ANSWER:

No.

CONCLUSION:

The appellate court reversed the judgment of the district court, holding that it was error to permit an FBI agent to relate the hearsay statement of a witness who testified on behalf of the government to seeing a car half an hour before the robbery. The agent was allowed to testify that she told him she had seen the car near her home twice, once half an hour before the robbery and a second time about 45 minutes later. The hearsay exception for impeachment was inapplicable because she was the government's witness and it had no right to impeach her testimony under the circumstances. The court held that the district court's charge contained reversible error, as a supplemental instruction did not make clear that, on the issue of alibi, the government had to convince the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that appellant's alibi was not true. The court further held that the trial court should fully consider appellant's claim of a violation of his right to a speedy trial after appellant had an opportunity to perfect his record, but should reject the claim absent some showing of substantial prejudice.

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