Brief Fact Summary. Defendant, Kenneth Estes, was charged with robbing the armored truck company he worked for of $55,000 and for perjury for lying to a grand jury during the investigation. He was convicted of perjury based largely on the testimony by his ex-wife.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Confidential communications regarding on-going criminal activity are not protected by the spousal privilege.
Absent prosecutorial misconduct, the mere fact that some incompetent or privileged testimony is heard by a legally constituted and unbiased grand jury seldom will invalidate an indictment returned by it.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Was the testimony by Defendant’s wife improperly allowed in violation of the spousal privilege regarding confidential communications?
Held. Justice Van Graafeland issuing the opinion for the United States Second Court of Appeals, reversed the conviction and held that Defendant’s wife’s testimony regarding the initial disclosure by Defendant of the theft should not have been admitted but admitting her testimony dealing the handling and disposition of the stolen property was admissible.
Discussion. The testimony by Defendant’s wife regarding Defendant bringing home a bag of money and confessing the crime should not have been admitted because it was not part of an on-going criminal activity involving her. Every piece of testimony disclosed after those initial facts is not protected.