U.S. v. Buege, No. 77-2298

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore SWYGERT, CUMMINGS, and PELL; SWYGERT
Citation578 F.2d 187
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Thiery M. BUEGE, Defendant-Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 77-2298
Decision Date20 June 1978

Page 187

578 F.2d 187
UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Thiery M. BUEGE, Defendant-Appellant.
No. 77-2298.
United States Court of Appeals,
Seventh Circuit.
Argued June 5, 1978.
Decided June 20, 1978.

Page 188

John D. Murray, Milwaukee, Wis., for defendant-appellant.

Lawrence O. Anderson, Asst. U.S. Atty., Milwaukee, Wis., for plaintiff-appellee.

Before SWYGERT, CUMMINGS, and PELL, Circuit Judges.

SWYGERT, Circuit Judge.

Defendant-appellant Thiery M. Buege was found guilty in a jury trial of violating 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) and 18 U.S.C. § 2 by unlawfully possessing with intent to distribute ten ounces of cocaine for which she received an eighteen-month sentence. Defendant appeals from both the judgment of conviction and the sentence.

I

During his closing argument the assistant United States attorney characterized portions of the testimony given by Drug Enforcement Agent Charles F. Lee as uncontradicted. Defense counsel objected and moved for a mistrial. The trial judge denied the motion ruling that the prosecutor's comments were not error or, at most, harmless. On appeal the defendant asserts that the prosecutor's repeated use of the phrase "uncontradicted testimony" during closing argument constituted prejudicial error because it infringed upon her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Direct reference by a prosecutor to a defendant's election not to testify at trial is clearly proscribed. Griffin v. California, 380 U.S. 609, 85 S.Ct. 1229, 14 L.Ed.2d 106 (1965). Indirect comments such as the prosecutor's references in this case to "uncontradicted testimony" constitute error when the statements are "manifestly intended to be or (are) of such a character that the jury (will) naturally and necessarily take (them) to be comment on the defendant's failure to testify." United States v. Lyon, 397 F.2d 505, 509 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 393 U.S. 846, 89 S.Ct. 131, 21 L.Ed.2d 117 (1968). This court has previously held that when a prosecutor refers to testimony as uncontradicted where the defendant has elected not to testify and when he is the only person able to dispute the testimony, such reference necessarily focuses the jury's attention on the defendant's failure to testify and constitutes error. United States v. Handman, 447 F.2d 853, 855 (7th Cir. 1971). See United States v. Poole, 379 F.2d 645, 649 (7th Cir. 1967).

The Government maintains that the description of agent Lee's testimony as uncontradicted was not error because persons other than the defendant could have disputed the testimony and were available as witnesses. One portion of such testimony referred to a telephone conversation between Lee and the defendant. During this conversation the defendant stated that she had a source of cocaine. While neither party

Page 189

disputes that the defendant's husband answered the telephone, the record does not establish that he listened to the defendant's conversation. Even if the husband had remained throughout the conversation, it is questionable whether he could have disputed Lee's testimony after hearing only the defendant's responses. We find, therefore, that the prosecutor committed error by repeatedly depicting testimony as uncontradicted where it was highly unlikely that at least a portion of the testimony could have been contradicted by...

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49 practice notes
  • Williams v. Lane, No. 86-2842
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • September 3, 1987
    ...made seven references during closing argument to the fact that the evidence was "uncontradicted" and "undenied"); United States v. Buege, 578 F.2d 187, 188-89 (7th Cir.1978), certiorari denied, 439 U.S. 871, 99 S.Ct. 203, 58 L.Ed.2d 183 (prosecutor repeatedly used the phrase "uncontradicted......
  • People v. Murtishaw, Cr. 20958
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • July 27, 1981
    ...was unconstitutional." (United States v. Flannery (1st Cir. 1971) 451 F.2d 880, 881; see United Page 752 States v. Buege (7th Cir. 1978) 578 F.2d 187, [631 P.2d 460] California decisions reach the same result. In People v. Vargas (1973) 9 Cal.3d 470, 108 Cal.Rptr. 15, 509 P.2d 959, the pros......
  • Davis v. U.S., No. 85-121.
    • United States
    • District of Columbia Court of Appeals of Columbia District
    • September 5, 1989
    ...the doctrine is invoked and the issue resolved, in the first instance, at the trial court level, see, e.g., United States v. Buege, 578 F.2d 187, 188 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 871, 99 S.Ct. 203, 58 L.Ed.2d 183 (1978), or the appellate court level, see, e.g., Bartram, supra, 364 A.2......
  • Freeman v. Lane, No. 90-2480
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • May 1, 1992
    ...this court had decided a number of cases, including United States v. Fearns, 501 F.2d 486 (7th Cir.1974), and United States v. Buege, 578 F.2d 187 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 871, 99 S.Ct. 203, 58 L.Ed.2d 183 (1978), which established that the prosecutors' comments violated the Const......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
49 cases
  • Williams v. Lane, No. 86-2842
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • September 3, 1987
    ...made seven references during closing argument to the fact that the evidence was "uncontradicted" and "undenied"); United States v. Buege, 578 F.2d 187, 188-89 (7th Cir.1978), certiorari denied, 439 U.S. 871, 99 S.Ct. 203, 58 L.Ed.2d 183 (prosecutor repeatedly used the phrase "uncontradicted......
  • People v. Murtishaw, Cr. 20958
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • July 27, 1981
    ...was unconstitutional." (United States v. Flannery (1st Cir. 1971) 451 F.2d 880, 881; see United Page 752 States v. Buege (7th Cir. 1978) 578 F.2d 187, [631 P.2d 460] California decisions reach the same result. In People v. Vargas (1973) 9 Cal.3d 470, 108 Cal.Rptr. 15, 509 P.2d 959, the pros......
  • Davis v. U.S., No. 85-121.
    • United States
    • District of Columbia Court of Appeals of Columbia District
    • September 5, 1989
    ...the doctrine is invoked and the issue resolved, in the first instance, at the trial court level, see, e.g., United States v. Buege, 578 F.2d 187, 188 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 871, 99 S.Ct. 203, 58 L.Ed.2d 183 (1978), or the appellate court level, see, e.g., Bartram, supra, 364 A.2......
  • Freeman v. Lane, No. 90-2480
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • May 1, 1992
    ...this court had decided a number of cases, including United States v. Fearns, 501 F.2d 486 (7th Cir.1974), and United States v. Buege, 578 F.2d 187 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 439 U.S. 871, 99 S.Ct. 203, 58 L.Ed.2d 183 (1978), which established that the prosecutors' comments violated the Const......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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