United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
134 F.3d 414 (D.C. Cir. 1998)
Warren Tilghman (defendant) was charged with lying on a federal form to receive disability benefits. Specifically, Tilghman owned a business and had claimed on the form that he had no earnings from the business. Also, Tilghman asserted that an employee of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) had told him in a phone call that he could earn up to $300 per month without reporting the money on the form in question. At trial, Tilghman testified in his own defense. The trial judge questioned Tilghman extensively. For instance, when discussing the phone call between Tilghman and the DOL, the judge twice asked, “We just have to take your word for it?” Additionally, the judge questioned Tilghman about his business, stating, “I see. It’s a peculiar business where everybody stays in for years and loses money all the time.” Tilghman was convicted. Tilghman appealed, arguing that the judge’s questioning had prejudiced the jury, thus denying him a fair trial.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Tatel, J.)
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