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Clifford v. Commonwealth

Kentucky Supreme Court
7 S.W.3d 371 (1999)


Clifford (defendant) was an African American male convicted of trafficking a controlled substance. Before Clifford’s arrest, a recording via a wiretap was made of a conversation between a White, male undercover police officer, a White, male informant, and two other individuals. Because the recording was largely inaudible, it was not admitted into evidence, but the officer who was listening to the conversation via surveillance equipment, Darin Smith, was allowed to testify as to what he heard. Smith testified that he heard the voices of the undercover police officer, which he recognized, another male, a female, and a Black male. Smith testified that he was familiar with Black male voices based on his 13 years of experience as a police officer. Clifford’s counsel cross-examined Smith at length about the difference between a Black male’s voice and a White male’s voice, but Smith could not answer many of the questions. Clifford himself never testified, and no evidence was offered about the sound of his voice or whether he had a certain accent or speech pattern. Following his conviction, Clifford appealed on the ground that Smith should not have been permitted to testify that he heard a Black male’s voice.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Cooper, J.)

Dissent (Stumbo, J.)

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