United States v. Fuentes

563 F.2d 527 (2d Cir. 1977)

 

RULE:

Since recorded evidence is likely to have a strong impression upon a jury and is susceptible to alteration, the court has adopted a general standard, namely, that the government produce clear and convincing evidence of authenticity and accuracy as a foundation for the admission of such recordings. 

FACTS:

Defendants were convicted by a jury of violations of federal narcotics laws and challenged their convictions on the basis the trial court erred when it admitted into evidence tape recordings, it failed to declare a mistrial when informant was not at trial, failed to charge jury on voluntariness of statements, and failed to order a second competency exam for one defendant. 

ISSUE:

Did the trial court commit a reversible error when it admitted into evidence tape recordings, failed to declare a mistrial when informant was not at trial, failed to charge jury on voluntariness of statements, and failed to order a second competency exam for one defendant?

ANSWER:

No.

CONCLUSION:

The court affirmed defendants' convictions and held the recordings were fully admissible at trial because the state sufficiently established their authenticity and accuracy. The court further held the state had no duty to produce the informant at trial or to guarantee his availability and was only required to provide the informant's identity. The court held it was harmless error when the trial court failed to give charge on voluntariness because the statements were such a minor part of the state's case in light of the overwhelming evidence that established defendant's involvement in the crime. The court also held that the trial judge acted within his discretion when he refused to order a second psychiatric exam for one defendant who had demonstrated he was able to communicate effectively in English.

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