Brief Fact Summary. The defendant, Dockins (the “defendant”), was convicted of illegal possession of a firearm by a convicted felon pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Section:922(g)(1). He was also convicted of knowingly making false statements during the purchase of a firearm pursuant to 18 U.SC. Section:922(a)(6).
Synopsis of Rule of Law. When there is no circumstantial evidence offered by the government to show that records come from where they are said to come from, “there [is] no basis for a reasonable jury to conclude that these documents [are] what they purported to be.”
The Government bears the burden of proving a defendant's competency by a preponderance of the evidence.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Did the government introduce competent evidence of the defendant’s status as a convicted felon?
“[W]hether the district court abused its discretion in finding that the government presented sufficient evidence at trial to support a finding that Exhibit 5a contained official Denver Police Department documents?”
Held. It was an abuse of discretion to admit these documents. The parties agreed that the document comprising Exhibit 5a were not self-authenticating and accordingly admissibility turned on F.R.E. Rule 901. F.R.E. Rule 901 does not require conclusive proof of authenticity.
The testimony concerning the fingerprint card was insufficient because the witness was only testifying as to what appears on the face of the document. The witness’s only knowledge came from reading the document. The witness only knew the fingerprint card originated from the Denver Police Department by reading the card. The witness’s testimony had nothing to with whether the documents actually came from the Denver Police Department.
Only one of the parties involved was the custodian of the records and he did not testify. There was no circumstantial evidence offered by the government to show that the records came from the Denver Police Department. Accordingly, “there was no basis for a reasonable jury to conclude that these documents were what they purported to be.”
Discussion. This case offers an interesting discussion about how documents must be authenticated before they are admissible.