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United States v. Duffy

United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
454 F.2d 809 (1972)


Facts

James H. Duffy (defendant), an employee in the auto body shop at an auto dealership, disappeared at the same time a recently acquired trade-in vehicle disappeared. The United States (US) (plaintiff) tried Duffy for transporting the stolen vehicle in interstate commerce between Florida and California. At trial, the US presented the testimony of a witness who police had arrested in California because he was in possession of the stolen vehicle and the witness testified that he had purchased the vehicle from Duffy. The US also offered the testimony of the arresting officer in California and a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent who examined the car and its contents. The police officer and the FBI agent both testified regarding two suitcases found in the truck of the stolen car, and described a shirt found in one of the suitcases bearing the laundry mark, “D-U-F.” Duffy objected that the actual shirt must be offered into evidence. Since Duffy asserted a defense at trial that he had worked on the vehicle at the auto dealership, but had not stolen the vehicle because he hitchhiked to California, Duffy stipulated to the evidence of his fingerprints found on the rearview mirror of the stolen vehicle. Duffy was convicted and appealed his conviction to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Relying on Watson v. United States, 224 F.2d 910 (5th Cir. 1955), Duffy asserted on appeal that the officer and agent’s testimony describing the shirt was inadmissible because the shirt itself was the best evidence.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Wisdom, J.)

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