Brief Fact Summary. Petitioner, Bourjaily, was charged with conspiring to distribute cocaine and possession of cocaine after he attempted to buy cocaine from an FBI informant through his co-conspirator Angelo Lenardo. Petitioner objected to the admission of taped conversations between Lenardo and the informant.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. A statement by a co-conspirator is admissible evidence under Rule 801 (d)(2)(E) of the Federal Rules of Evidence.
Under James, a declaration by one defendant is admissible against other defendants only when there is a sufficient showing, by the independent evidence, of a conspiracy among one or more other defendants and the declarant and if the declarations at issue were in furtherance of that conspiracy, and as a preliminary matter, there must be substantial, independent evidence of a conspiracy at least enough to take the question to the jury.View Full Point of Law
Issue. The issue is whether the statements made by the co-conspirator are admissible hearsay against Petitioner.
Held. The lower court correctly determined that the requirements for admitting the co-conspirator’s statements have been met. The standard of review for the initial determination of whether a co-conspiracy exists for the purposes of applying Rule 801 (d)(2)(E) is a preponderance of the evidence, and the evidence available met that threshold. The court is allowed to look at the hearsay statements in making that determination. Since the requirements of Rule 801 (d)(2)(E) are the same requirements of the Confrontation Clause of the United States Constitution, the fact that the Rule’s requirements were met indicate that Petitioner’s constitutional rights were protected.
Dissent. The dissent argues that there must evidence independent of the offered statements to prove the conspiracy. If the majority is going to transform the co-conspirator exception so much, it should no longer be considered a firmly rooted exception and should go back to the trial judge to find evidence of trustworthiness.
Concurrence. Justice John Paul Stevens concurs but disagrees with the precedent of allowing statements themselves to be used as the proof of whether a conspiracy exists.
Discussion. The co-conspirator exception not only allows statements by co-conspirators to come in as a hearsay exception, but the statements themselves can be used to determine if there is a conspiracy for the purposes of letting the statements in.