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U.S. v. Mound

    Brief Fact Summary. After his conviction for various sexual abuse crimes involving a minor, Alvin Ralph Mound (Defendant) appeals, challenging the trial court’s decision to allow into evidence a past conviction of Defendant’s for child sexual abuse under Federal Rule of Evidence 413. After the lower court admitted evidence of the conviction, the jury convicted Defendant and sentenced him to life imprisonment. Defendant appeal his conviction here.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Courts must apply a Rule 403 test to all evidence offered, and Rule 413, so long as it is, “subject to the constraints of Rule 403,” is constitutional.

    Facts. Defendant was accused of sexually abusing his daughter for a period of nearly four years, beginning when she was ten years old.
    Defendant was convicted by a jury, following a trial, of seven sexual abuse and assault charges, and sentenced to life imprisonment.
    Prior to the events from which this case stems, Defendant was accused by two other young women of abuse; Defendant pled guilty to the first offense in exchange for the second charge being dropped.
    Evidence of the conviction of Defendant and evidence relating to the uncharged crime were offered by the prosecution; the lower court admitted into evidence the conviction only, excluding the evidence related to the uncharged crime.

    Issues.
    Is Federal Rule of Evidence 413 unconstitutional as applied because it allows punishment for past acts not currently at issue?

    Is Federal Rule of Evidence 413 unconstitutional as applied because it violates Defendant’s equal protection rights?

    Was it an abuse of discretion for the lower court to admit Defendant’s prior conviction under Federal Rule of Evidence 413, following a Rule 403 determination?

    Is it error to admit items into evidence under Rule 413 when the same evidence would be inadmissible under Rule 404(b)?

    Held. Affirmed.
    No; Congress has the ultimate power to create exceptions to the Federal Rules of Evidence it creates, and Rule 413 is essentially an exception to the past practice of excluding evidence of prior bad acts.

    No; the Rule bears a rational relation to some legitimate end and Congress’s judgment in enacting the Rule was rational.

    No; there were two alleged past acts, and the court properly applied the Rule 403 test and, in its discretion, determined to allow into evidence the prior conviction, but not allow testimony concerning the uncharged crime.

    No; according to the legislative history of Rule 413, the rule was intended to have the effect of allowing certain evidence that would be inadmissible under Rule 404(b), and the present case is one such situation.


    Discussion. The court reasons that the “cautionary instruction” to the jury guarded against unfair prejudice, and in light of the instruction, the court exercised its discretion in a proper manner. The cautionary instruction reads:
    This defendant was convicted in 1988 of sexual abuse of a minor. This does not mean that he is guilty of any of the charges of aggravated sexual abuse or any other offense as to which he has pled not guilty in this case which you will be deciding. You may give such evidence and the testimony of this witness no weight or such weight as you think it is entitled to receive. . . . [T]his evidence is being received for a limited purpose only.


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