Brief Fact Summary. Webster, Defendant, was convicted of bank robbery and receiving stolen funds and sentenced to nine years. The prosecution had to use out of court statements by his co-defendant as impeachment evidence after the co-defendant gave testimony that would have exculpated Defendant if believed.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Impeachment by offering prior inconsistent statements may not be used to place before the jury evidence not otherwise admissible.
It would be an abuse of the rule for the prosecution to call a witness that it knows will not give it useful evidence, just so it can introduce hearsay evidence against the defendant in the hope that the jury would miss the subtle distinction between impeachment and substantive evidence.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Was it improper to allow the out of court statement by King to admitted?
Held. Justice Posner issued the opinion for the United States Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in affirming the conviction and holding that he impeachment evidence was not used to place otherwise inadmissible evidence before the jury because the prosecution did not know that the co-defendant would not give useful evidence.
Discussion. In the case, the Court of Appeals found that prosecution acted in good faith in putting the co-defendant on the stand. Thus, the evidence was not offered to intentionally place inadmissible evidence before the jury. The prosecution first sought to question the co-defendant out of the presence of the jury to find out what information, if any, he would offer. Defendant’s counsel objected and the questioning was not allowed.