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United States v. Johnson

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
637 F.2d 1224 (1980)


The United States (plaintiff) tried Johnson (defendant) for assaulting Papse with an ax. At trial, the United States called Papse as a witness and during his testimony offered to admit a long handled ax into evidence as the assault weapon. Papse stated that he was “pretty sure” that the offered ax was the same ax that Johnson used to attack him. Papse also indicated that he was personally familiar with the ax because he had used that ax in the past and that he had seen the ax in Johnson’s hand. The ax was admitted into evidence and Johnson was convicted. Johnson appealed his conviction to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, asserting that the ax should not have been admitted into evidence because the United States failed to properly authenticate the ax through Papse’s testimony. Johnson argued that Papse failed to distinguish the ax from other axes by identifying specific characteristics of the ax. Johnson also argued that the court should have exercised additional caution in determining the admissibility of the ax because the condition of the ax when it was admitted into evidence differed from the condition it was observed to be in at the scene.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Williams, J.)

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