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Coleman v. Burnett
United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
477 F.2d 1187 (1973)
Ronald Shepard (defendant) was federally charged with assaulting a deputy United States marshal while Shepard was incarcerated. At Shepard’s preliminary hearing, the court limited Shepard’s cross-examination of the two prosecution witnesses to the scope of what those witnesses stated during direct examination. The court then sustained the prosecutor’s objections to many cross-examination questions that implied that there was possibly a riot in the cellblock and that Shepard sustained serious injuries, finding that the questions went beyond the permissible scope of cross-examination and instead sought discovery. In an unrelated case, Jorge Dancis (defendant) was federally charged with two violations of the Marijuana Tax Act. The magistrate denied Dancis’s request to subpoena the undercover agent who was the sole eyewitness to Dancis’s two alleged marijuana transactions to testify at Dancis’s preliminary hearing. The sole witness at Dancis’s preliminary hearing was the agent’s supervisor, who presented the agent’s hearsay statements. The agent’s identity was not revealed. Both Shepard’s and Dancis’s preliminary hearings generated findings of probable cause. Dancis and Shepard joined Lawrence Coleman (defendant), who had a third unrelated criminal case, in a class-action complaint in federal district court. The class sought declaratory judgments that the preliminary hearings were defective, writs of mandamus reopening their preliminary hearings, and an injunction preventing presentations of their cases to grand juries. The district court denied relief, and the class appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Robinson, J.)
Concurrence/Dissent (Fahy, J.)
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