United States v. Freeman

730 F.3d 590 (2013)

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United States v. Freeman

United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
730 F.3d 590 (2013)

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Facts

Marcus Freeman, Roy West, and others (defendants) were charged with crimes based on their involvement in a murder-for-hire conspiracy. The United States (plaintiff) alleged that West paid Freeman to kill Leonard Day. The government’s evidence included 23,000 phone conversations involving Freeman, West, and their codefendants. At trial, the government played portions of 77 calls for the jury. The government called Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent Scott Lucas to testify about his impressions of the phone calls. Lucas had been qualified as an expert witness to testify about code words and drug slang. As the calls were played, Lucas identified voices, explained nicknames, and interpreted some of the statements made in the calls. Lucas’s interpretations repeatedly reminded the jury of the government’s theory of the case. For example, Lucas testified that he believed Freeman’s statement, “So I’m on it for sure ‘cause I need that,” meant that Freeman needed the payment from West if he successfully located and killed Day. Lucas also testified that Freeman’s statement, “[T]he situation is over with,” was referring to West putting a hit on Day and Day being killed. Lucas testified that his interpretations were based on the FBI’s investigation, the 23,000 phone calls, and his 15 years of FBI experience, but he never identified any personal experience that allowed him to understand and interpret the calls. Defense counsel objected to Lucas’s testimony, asserting that it went beyond Lucas’s expert qualifications. The government responded that Lucas was testifying as a lay witness. The district court allowed Lucas’s testimony. The jury ultimately convicted Freeman, and he appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Cole, J.)

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