Sunday, December 22, 2013

United States v. Hernandez case brief

United States v. Hernandez case brief summary
750 F.2d 1256 (5th Cir. 1985)

Defendant challenged a judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, which convicted him on charges relating to the possession and distribution of c*caine.

At defendant's trial relating to the possession and distribution of c*caine, the prosecutor elicited testimony from a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) special agent. The agent testified that the investigation surrounding defendant began when the DEA received a referral from United States Customs that defendant was a drug smuggler. Defendant was convicted.


  • On appeal the court reversed. It held that the agent's statement was inadmissible hearsay. 
  • The court rejected the government's argument that the testimony was admissible to show the agent's state of mind. 
  • The court found that even if the testimony were relevant, it was inadmissible under Fed. R. Evid. 403, 404(b) because its minimal probative value was substantially outweighed by the risk of unfair prejudice. 
  • The court also determined that the prosecutor's embellishment of the agent's testimony during closing argument aggravated the prejudice to defendant. 
  • The court then proceeded to address issues that could arise on retrial. 
  • The court found that the district court did not err in sentencing defendant to consecutive terms for possession and distribution of c*caine stemming from the same transaction.

The court reversed the judgment of conviction and remanded the case to the district court. The court held that the prosecutor elicited inadmissible hearsay testimony from a government witness and that the prosecutor's closing argument exacerbated the prejudice to defendant and denied him the fair trial to which he was entitled.

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