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United States v. Thornton

United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
197 F.3d 241 (1999)


The United States government (plaintiff) prosecuted Thornton and 13 others (defendants) on drug charges. Nine of the 14 defendants made plea bargains and agreed to testify against Thornton and three other key defendants. At trial, the government introduced the proffer letters that offered the plea bargains, as well as the final plea bargain agreements the nine defendants signed. Both the letters and the agreements repeatedly emphasized that any leniency the witnesses might receive was conditioned on their giving truthful testimony. The trial judge instructed the jury that it was the sole judge of the credibility of the witnesses. The trial judge further instructed that the jury should draw no inferences based on the defendants’ entry into plea bargains and should give the cooperating witnesses’ testimony whatever weight the jury felt it deserved. The jury convicted the four key defendants. On appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, the four key defendants argued that the proffer letters and plea bargain agreements should have been excluded from evidence.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Evans, J.)

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