Thursday, December 5, 2013

United States v. Lightly case brief

United States v. Lightly case brief summary
677 F.2d 1027 (1982)


CASE SYNOPSIS
Defendant appealed from the judgment of his conviction entered in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia for assault with intent to commit murder of another inmate. He was sentenced to a 10-year term of imprisonment to run consecutively with the sentence he already was serving. He also had been charged with conspiracy to commit murder, but that charge was dropped.

CASE FACTS
Defendant appealed from the judgment of his conviction for assault with intent to commit murder of another inmate. He was sentenced to a 10-year term of imprisonment to run consecutively with the sentence he already was serving. He also had been charged with conspiracy to commit murder, but that charge was dropped. The defense had attempted to have another inmate testify. Such witness would have testified that only he and not defendant had assaulted the victim. However the district court ruled that such witness was incompetent to testify because he had been found to be criminally insane and incompetent to stand trial, and was subject to hallucinations.

DISCUSSION

  • The court reversed the judgment and remanded the case for a new trial on grounds that, where the treating physician of such witness indicated that he had a sufficient memory, that he understood the oath, and that he could communicate what he saw, the disqualification of the witness was error as he was presumed to be competent to testify and his testimony would have substantially corroborated that of defendant.

CONCLUSION
Defendant's conviction for assault with intent to commit murder of another inmate was reversed and the case was remanded for a new trial. Where a witness, although found to be criminally insane and incompetent to stand trial, had a sufficient memory, understood the oath, and could communicate what he saw, his disqualification was error as he was presumed competent to testify and his testimony would have provided substantial corroboration.

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