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United States v. Piper

United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
298 F.3d 47 (2002)


Facts

Stanley M. Piper (defendant) was convicted for crimes relating to cocaine distribution. During Piper’s trial, his alleged coconspirator, Anthony Stilkey, testified. Stilkey testified comprehensively about three separate transactions and testified that these transactions were part of a drug-trafficking scheme between Piper and Stilkey. As corroboration, Stilkey’s wife testified, as well as two detectives of a surveillance team. In addition, the government presented seven tape-recorded conversations. One of these tapes, the April 22 tape, contained evidence that was cumulative of the government’s other evidence, both in other tape recordings as well as from the testimony of other witnesses. During his closing statements, Piper’s attorney spent some time questioning Stilkey’s credibility. In response, the prosecutor focused on the tape recordings in his closing statement, stating that the tape recorder, which he referred to as “Mr. Panasonic,” would clear up any issues. Following his conviction, Piper appealed the admission of the tape recordings. The appellate court held that six of the seven recordings were admissible, but the seventh recording—the April 22 recording—was not. The issue before the court was whether the trial court’s admission of the April 22 tape was harmless error.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Selya, J.)

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