Mathews v. United States,
485 U.S. 58 (1988)

Annotate this Case
  • Syllabus  | 
  • Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Mathews v. United States, 485 U.S. 58 (1988)

Mathews v. United States

No. 86-6109

Argued December 2, 1987

Decided February 24, 1988

485 U.S. 58


Petitioner, an employee of the Small Business Administration (SBA), was the principal SBA contact for James DeShazer, the president of a company that participated in an SBA program. DeShazer believed that his company was not being provided with certain program benefits because he had rejected petitioner's repeated requests for loans. Assisting the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in an investigation of the matter, DeShazer, under FBI surveillance, offered petitioner a previously requested loan, which petitioner agreed to accept. Later, DeShazer met petitioner and gave him the money. Petitioner was immediately arrested and charged with the federal offense of accepting a bribe in exchange for an official act. The District Court denied petitioner's pretrial motion seeking to raise an entrapment defense, ruling that entrapment was not available because petitioner would not admit all of the elements (including the requisite mental state) of the offense. Petitioner testified in his own defense that, although he had accepted the loan, he believed it was a personal loan unrelated to his SBA duties. The court refused to instruct the jury as to entrapment, the jury found petitioner guilty, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: Even if the defendant in a federal criminal case denies one or more elements of the crime, he is entitled to an entrapment instruction whenever there is sufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could find entrapment -- a defense that has the two related elements of Government inducement of the crime, and a lack of predisposition on the defendant's part to engage in the criminal conduct. There is no merit to the Government's contention that, because entrapment presupposes the commission of a crime, a defendant should not be allowed both to deny the offense or an element thereof, and to rely on the inconsistent, affirmative defense of entrapment. Although the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure specifically authorize inconsistent pleading, the absence of a cognate provision in the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure is not because of the Rules' intent to more severely restrict criminal defendants than civil parties, but because of the much less elaborate system of pleadings -- particularly with respect to the defendant -- in a criminal case. A simple not guilty plea puts the prosecution to its proof as to all elements of the crime charged, and raises the defense of entrapment. Moreover, the Government's arguments that allowing a defendant to rely on inconsistent defenses

Page 485 U. S. 59

will encourage perjury, lead to jury confusion, and subvert the trial's truthfinding function are not persuasive. The question whether the evidence at trial was insufficient to support an entrapment instruction was pretermitted by the Court of Appeals, and is open for consideration by that court on remand. Pp. 485 U. S. 62-66.

803 F.2d 325, reversed and remanded.

REHNQUIST, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, STEVENS, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 485 U. S. 66. SCALIA, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 485 U. S. 67. WHITE, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BLACKMUN, J., joined, post, p. 485 U. S. 68. KENNEDY, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Disclaimer: Official Supreme Court case law is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia case law is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.