United States v. Inadi
Annotate this Case
475 U.S. 387 (1986)
U.S. Supreme Court
United States v. Inadi, 475 U.S. 387 (1986)
United States v. Inadi
Argued December 3, 1985
Decided March 10, 1986
475 U.S. 387
Following a jury trial in Federal District Court, respondent was convicted of conspiring to manufacture and distribute methamphetamine, and related offenses. Part of the evidence consisted of taped conversations between various participants in the conspiracy. Respondent sought to exclude the recorded statements of the unindicted coconspirators, including one Lazaro, on the ground that they did not satisfy the requirements of Federal Rule of Evidence 801(d)(2)(E), which provides that a statement by a coconspirator of a party made "during the course and in furtherance of the conspiracy" is not hearsay when offered against the party. Respondent also objected to the admission of the statements on Confrontation Clause grounds, contending that they were inadmissible absent a showing that the declarants were unavailable. The District Court held that the statements satisfied Rule 801(d)(2)(E), and admitted the statements, conditioned on the prosecution's commitment to produce Lazaro. The Government subpoenaed Lazaro, but he failed to appear, and defense counsel made no effort to secure his presence. The court then overruled respondent's renewed Confrontation Clause objections, holding that Lazaro's statements were admissible because they satisfied the coconspirator rule. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding, in reliance on Ohio v. Roberts, 448 U. S. 56, that, although Rule 801(d)(2)(E) had been satisfied, the Confrontation Clause established an independent requirement that the Government, as a condition to admission of any out-of court statements, must show the declarant's unavailability.
Held: The Confrontation Clause does not require a showing of unavailability as a condition to admission of the out-of court statements of a nontestifying coconspirator. Pp. 475 U. S. 392-400.
(a) Ohio v. Roberts, supra, which simply reaffirmed a longstanding rule that applies unavailability analysis to the prior testimony of a witness not produced at trial, cannot fairly be read to stand for the proposition that no out-of court statement can be introduced by the prosecution without a showing that the declarant is unavailable. Pp. 475 U. S. 392-394.
(b) The principles whereby prior testimony may be admitted as a substitute for live testimony only if the declarant is unavailable do not apply to coconspirator statements. Co-conspirator statements derive much of their value from the fact that they are made in a context very different
from trial, and therefore are usually irreplaceable as substantive evidence. Their admission into evidence thus actually furthers the Confrontation Clause's mission of advancing the "truth-determining process." Pp. 475 U. S. 394-396.
(c) Little benefit would be accomplished by an unavailability rule. Under such a rule, if the coconspirator either is unavailable or is available and produced by the prosecution, his prior statements could be introduced. Nor is an unavailability rule likely to produce much testimony that adds anything to the "truth-determining process" over and above what would be produced without such a rule, because the relative interests of the parties will have changed drastically. In contrast to the slight benefits, the burden imposed by an unavailability rule is significant. A rule that required each invocation of Rule 801(d)(2)(E) to be accompanied by a decision on the declarant's availability would impose a substantial burden on the entire criminal justice system. Moreover, a significant practical burden would be imposed on the prosecution, since, in every case involving coconspirators' statements, the prosecution would be required to identify each declarant, locate them, and then attempt to ensure their availability for trial. Pp. 475 U. S. 396-400.
748 F.2d 812, reversed.
POWELL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, BLACKMUN, REHNQUIST, STEVENS, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, post, p. 475 U. S. 400.
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