Monday, April 29, 2013

Michelson v. U.S case brief

Michelson v. U.S case brief
335 U.S. 469

CASE SYNOPSIS: Upon writ of certiorari to review a decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, defendant challenged the decision that affirmed defendant's conviction for bribing a federal officer.

FACTS: Defendant was convicted of bribing a federal revenue agent. At trial on cross-examination of his character witnesses, the prosecutor asked the witnesses if they had ever heard that defendant was previously arrested for receiving stolen goods. Defendant claimed that this question constituted reversible error.

The appellate court affirmed and held that the question was permissible but pointed out that the practice had been severely criticized.

Upon writ of certiorari, the court affirmed the appellate court decision and thereby rejected the appellate court's invitation to adopt the Illinois rule providing that such questions were improper unless they related to offenses similar to those for which the defendant was on trial. The court held that the cross-examination question was proper because reports of defendant's arrest for receiving stolen goods, if admitted, would tend to weaken defendant's assertion that he was known as an honest and law-abiding citizen. The court found that defendant had no valid complaint at the latitude which existing law allowed to the prosecution to meet by cross-examination an issue voluntarily tendered by the defense.

CONCLUSION: The court affirmed a decision of the appellate court affirming defendant's conviction for bribing a federal officer. The court rejected the appellate court's request to adopt a rule limiting character evidence on cross-examination concerning defendant's prior arrests to only those arrests relating to similar offenses to those for which defendant was on trial.

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