In January of 1996, a man offered a woman $1,500.00 to use her apartment for a drug deal. She accepted and the man and another man moved into the woman’s apartment to wait for a large amount of heroin to be delivered from San Francisco by another man. While in the apartment, the woman saw that one of the men, the defendant, had a small caliber handgun. When the man from San Francisco who was delivering the heroin arrived in New York, the woman and two men went to his hotel.
Several days later, the defendant and the woman returned to the hotel and searched it for the heroin. When they found it, they returned to the woman’s apartment where the other men were watching television. The woman stated that she was in the living room when the defendant and the other men went into the back bedroom. They came out about 15 minutes later without the man from San Francisco. She testified later that she went in to the back bedroom and discovered the San Francisco man lying on the bed face down with blood pouring from his head. The defendant and the other two men divided the heroin among them and then convinced the woman to help them wrap the body in a rug. They dumped the body along Riverside Drive in Upper Manhattan where it was quickly found and identified.
The body was quickly connected to the woman when the name and address that the San Francisco man had given for his bank accounts were hers. New York City Police Detectives went to her apartment and questioned her about the dead man. She stated later that the defendant was still in her apartment when the detectives came and that she had feared for her safety. She stated that he had threatened to harm her child if she said anything. Later the defendant was arrested on an unrelated parole violation and incarcerated. The woman left the city and moved to Philadelphia.
In April of 1998, the defendant was released from prison and contacted the Drug Enforcement Administration. He offered his services as a paid informant if they would locate the woman for him. While DEA was interviewing him, he led them to believe that the woman had a connection to the San Francisco man’s murder. The DEA notified the New York Detectives.
In July of 1998, the Detectives went to the woman’s new home in Philadelphia. They told her that the defendant had implicated her in the murder. At that point, she admitted her involvement and agreed to testify against the defendant. On October 26, 1998, the defendant was arrested for the San Francisco man’s murder.
At trial, the defendant wanted to cross-examine the woman so that he could have the jury hear that she had only implicated him after being told by the police that he had implicated her. The court refused to allow him to pursue that course because they felt that it would confuse the jury and leave speculation. It would also enable him to place his statement before the jury without giving the prosecutor the chance to cross-examine him. The court would not allow it.
He filed an appeal stating that it is an accused’s right to cross-examine witnesses. The court disagreed. They ruled that the right to cross-examine is not absolute. The trial courts have the right to determine the scope of a cross-examination. If they do not feel that it is appropriate, they can prevent it as well.
The Supreme Court ruled that the preclusion of the testimony was not an abuse of discretion as a matter of law and upheld the conviction.
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