Summary. Defendant was charged with violating the mail fraud statute and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. The district court’s ruling, which stated the probative value of prior convictions did not outweigh their prejudicial effect, was affirmed by the Court of Appeals.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. A judge has no discretion to prohibit to impeachment of the credibility of a witness by questions concerning crimes involving dishonesty or false statements.
Issue. Does a district court have any discretion to exclude, as unduly prejudicial, evidence that a witness had previously been convicted of a crime involving dishonesty or a false statement?
Held. A district court had no discretion to weight the probative value of the prior conviction against its prejudicial effect.
Discussion. Rule 609(a) reflects a decision made by the U.S Congress that prior convictions involving dishonesty and false statements are peculiarly probative of credibility and are always to be admitted by a court.