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United States v. Duncan

    Citation

    View this case and other resources at:
    Bloomberg Law

    Brief Fact Summary. The seven defendants were convicted of mail fraud and conspiracy after they participated in a scheme to defraud insurance providers. The defendants purchased numerous hospitalization policies and proceeded to stage numerous accidents which led to hospitalization. The nature of the offense provided a range of documents that were produced as evidence.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Higher courts will apply an abuse-of-discretion standard of review when reviewing admission of evidence.

    Facts. The seven defendants conspired to defraud hospitalization insurance providers. The defendants routinely staged accidents in order to recover payments from several policies per hospital stay. The fraud resulted in the creation of numerous records, such as medical records, that were used at trial to convict the conspirators. On appeal, the defendants challenged the denial of their motion to change venue, as well as challenging the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain their convictions and challenging the severity of the sentences. The defendants also challenged fourteen evidentiary rulings.

    Issue. There are several issues raised, with the primary issues regarding whether the trial court abused their discretion in the admissibility of evidence?
    Whether the trial court abused their discretion in allowing, pursuant to Federal Rules of Evidence (“F.R.E.”) Rule 803(6) and F.R.E. Rule 801(d)(2), medical records that were authenticated by a witness that cannot attest to the accuracy of the business records?

    Whether evidence of a former supervisor of a defendant regarding the authenticity of a signature on a document was unduly prejudicial to the defendant and therefore inadmissible?

    Whether, pursuant to FR.E. Rule 1006, summary evidence was properly admitted?

    Whether, pursuant to F.R.E. Rule 608(b), it was proper for a trial judge to prevent cross-examination of a witness regarding conduct that did not stem from a criminal conviction or was probative of the witness’s character for truthfulness?

    Whether the cross-examination of witnesses was cumulative per F.R.E. Rule 403?

    Whether the trial judge wrongfully commented on the evidence by summarizing testimony of a witness for the jury?

    Held. The court affirmed the lower court rulings, including all fourteen rulings on the admissibility of evidence.
    Medical records are properly authenticated when the nature of the business records, such as medical records used by insurance providers, indicate an inherent reliability. An agent for the business that is responsible for the records can authenticate the evidence.

    Evidence of a former supervisor of a defendant regarding the authenticity of a signature on a document was not unduly prejudicial to the defendant because the evidence was significantly relevant.

    Pursuant to F.R.E. Rule 1006, summary evidence is properly admitted when the underlying evidence is voluminous and inconvenient to examine in court.

    Pursuant to F.R.E. Rule 608(b), it was proper for a trial judge to prevent cross-examination of a witness regarding conduct that did not stem from a criminal conviction or was probative of the witness’s character for truthfulness.

    Cross-examination of witnesses can be limited when it is cumulative per F.R.E. Rule 403.

    The trial judge has an amount of latitude to moderate a trial, including the ability to comment on the evidence by summarizing testimony of a witness for the jury.


    Discussion. A trial court’s rulings regarding the admissibility of evidence will typically stand unless there is an abuse of discretion by the trial court.


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