United States v. Mallay

The Facts

The defendants, James and Malley, have carried out criminal conspiracy related to racketeering, murder, mail fraud, money laundering as well as committed these acts. Additionally, Mallay committed murder for hire and James solicited murder in racketeering. All acts were performed to unlawfully kill four people.

Procedural History

Initial judgments against both defendants were affirmed by the US Court of Appeals.


“A finding of plain error requires that (1) there is an error; (2) the error is plain, that is, the error is clear or obvious, rather than subject to reasonable dispute; (3) the error affected the appellant’s substantial rights, which in the ordinary case means it affected the outcome of the district court proceedings; and (4) the error seriously affects the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of judicial proceedings”.

The defense is allowed to introduce a prosecutor’s statement from a prior trial when prosecution offered an inconsistent assertion of fact at initial trial as well as when prosecution delivered no innocent explanation for the contradiction.

The Issue

(a) Whether the initial trial court erred by excluding the prosecutor’s rebuttal statement in the prior trial; (b) whether district court did abuse its discretion in disallowing as impeachment evidence statements made by a cooperating witness in absence of the jury; (c) whether district court’s denial of severance motion of one of the defendants was reasonably justified; (d) whether there was cumulative error warranting reversal.

The Holding/Reasoning

The US Court of Appeals made following reasoning:

(a) The defendant misplaced his arguments that a post-trial letter from a cooperating witness in murder affected the propriety of court’s ruling. The letter was not available to the district court at the time of ruling. Therefore the district court’s finding as to the government’s explanation was not erroneous. Hence, the court did not abuse its discretion in excluding the prosecution’s rebuttal statement;

(b) Evidence introduced by the cooperating witness was irrelevant and had little probative value. Thus, the district court did not abuse its discretion in disallowing as impeachment evidence statements made outside of the jury’s presence;

(c) “The court may sever the defendants’ trials if consolidation for trial appears to prejudice a defendant. Fed. R. Crim. P. 14(a). Considerations of efficiency and consistency militate in favor of trying jointly defendants who were indicted together, and joint trials are often particularly appropriate in circumstances where the defendants are charged with participating in the same criminal conspiracy. The decision to sever a joint trial of federal defendants is committed to the sound discretion of the trial judge…”

(d) Upon a review of the entire record, it become obvious beyond a reasonable doubt that the errors complained of did not contribute to the verdict obtained… “[E]vidence would have been unimportant in relation to everything else the jury considered on the issue in question, as revealed in the record. There was no Sixth Amendment violation in the admission of a recording made by a government informant because it was proper to admit that recording as a co-conspirator statement under Fed. R. Ev. 801(d)(2)(E).”

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