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United States v. Whitmore

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
359 F.3d 609 (D.D.C. 2004)


Facts

Gerald Whitmore (defendant) was charged with gun- and drug-related offenses. Officer Efrain Soto testified that he saw Whitmore throw a gun at a building. In response, Whitmore testified that Soto fabricated the story. Whitmore also sought to call Jason Cherkis, Bruce Cooper, and Kennith Edmonds as character witnesses to testify to Soto’s character for truthfulness. Cherkis was a journalist who had written a newspaper article about Soto and had interviewed people who stated that Soto was a liar. The district court excluded Cherkis’s reputation testimony, because Cherkis was not personally acquainted with Soto. Similarly, Cooper was a criminal defense attorney who planned to testify that other defense attorneys and the general court community thought that Soto was a liar. The district court excluded Cooper’s reputation testimony, because Cooper did not know Soto’s reputation within the entire court community and did not live in Soto’s community. Cooper also planned to testify to his personal opinion that Soto was a liar, based on an unsupported claim that Soto had previously lied as a witness against Cooper’s clients. The district court excluded Cooper’s opinion testimony under Federal Rule of Evidence (FRE) 403, because the testimony was biased and its probative value was substantially outweighed by its danger of undue prejudice. Finally, Edmonds lived in a neighborhood that Soto had patrolled as a police officer until approximately five years earlier. During that time, Edmonds saw Soto regularly. Edmonds claimed that Soto had wrongfully arrested him approximately six years prior to trial. The district court excluded Edmonds’s opinion and reputation testimony based on FRE 403. Whitmore was convicted, and he appealed.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Henderson, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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