United States v. Inadi

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Citation475 U.S. 387,106 S.Ct. 1121,89 L.Ed.2d 390
Docket NumberNo. 84-1580,84-1580
PartiesUNITED STATES, Petitioner v. Joseph INADI
Decision Date10 March 1986
Syllabus

Following a jury trial in Federal District Court, respondent was convicted of conspiring to manufacture and distribute methamphetamine, and related offenses. Part of the evidence consisted of taped conversations between various participants in the conspiracy. Respondent sought to exclude the recorded statements of the unindicted co-conspirators, including one Lazaro, on the ground that they did not satisfy the requirements of Federal Rule of Evidence 801(d)(2)(E), which provides that a statement by a co-conspirator of a party made "during the course and in furtherance of the conspiracy" is not hearsay when offered against the party. Respondent also objected to the admission of the statements on Confrontation Clause grounds, contending that they were inadmissible absent a showing that the declarants were unavailable. The District Court held that the statements satisfied Rule 801(d)(2)(E), and admitted the statements, conditioned on the prosecution's commitment to produce Lazaro. The Government subpoenaed Lazaro, but he failed to appear, and defense counsel made no effort to secure his presence. The court then overruled respondent's renewed Confrontation Clause objections, holding that Lazaro's statements were admissible because they satisfied the co-conspirator rule. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding, in reliance on Ohio v. Roberts, 448 U.S. 56, 100 S.Ct. 2531, 65 L.Ed.2d 597, that although Rule 801(d)(2)(E) had been satisfied, the Confrontation Clause established an independent requirement that the Government, as a condition to admission of any out-of-court statements, must show the declarant's unavailability.

Held: The Confrontation Clause does not require a showing of unavailability as a condition to admission of the out-of-court statements of a nontestifying co-conspirator. Pp. 392-400.

(a) Ohio v. Roberts, supra, which simply reaffirmed a longstanding rule that applies unavailability analysis to the prior testimony of a witness not produced at trial, cannot fairly be read to stand for the proposition that no out-of-court statement can be introduced by the prosecution without a showing that the declarant is unavailable. Pp. 392-394.

(b) The principles whereby prior testimony may be admitted as a substitute for live testimony only if the declarant is unavailable do not apply to co-conspirator statements. Co-conspirator statements derive much of their value from the fact that they are made in a context very different from trial, and therefore are usually irreplaceable as substantive evidence. Their admission into evidence thus actually furthers the Confrontation Clause's mission of advancing the "truth-determining process." Pp. 394-396.

(c) Little benefit would be accomplished by an unavailability rule. Under such a rule, if the co-conspirator either is unavailable or is available and produced by the prosecution, his prior statements could be introduced. Nor is an unavailability rule likely to produce much testimony that adds anything to the "truth-determining process" over and above what would be produced without such a rule, because the relative interests of the parties will have changed drastically. In contrast to the slight benefits, the burden imposed by an unavailability rule is significant. A rule that required each invocation of Rule 801(d)(2)(E) to be accompanied by a decision on the declarant's availability would impose a substantial burden on the entire criminal justice system. Moreover, a significant practical burden would be imposed on the prosecution, since in every case involving co-conspirators' statements, the prosecution would be required to identify each declarant, locate them, and then attempt to ensure their availability for trial. Pp. 396-400.

748 F.2d 812 (CA3 1984), reversed.

POWELL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, BLACKMUN, REHNQUIST, STEVENS, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, post, p. 400.

Andrew L. Frey, Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

Holly Maguigan, Philadelphia, Pa., for respondent.

Justice POWELL delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case presents the question whether the Confrontation Clause requires the Government to show that a nontestifying co-conspirator is unavailable to testify, as a condition for admission of that co-conspirator's out-of-court statements.

I

Following a jury trial in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, respondent Joseph Inadi was convicted of conspiring to manufacture and distribute methamphetamine, and related offenses. He was sentenced to three years' imprisonment to be followed by a 7-year parole term. The evidence at trial showed that in September 1979, respondent was approached by unindicted co-conspirator Michael McKeon, who was seeking a distribution outlet for methamphetamine. Respondent's role was to supply cash and chemicals for the manufacture of methamphetamine and to be responsible for its distribution. McKeon and another unindicted co-conspirator, William Levan, were to manufacture the substance.

In the course of manufacturing and selling methamphetamine, McKeon, Levan, and respondent met with another unindicted co-conspirator, John Lazaro, at an empty house in Cape May, New Jersey. There they extracted additional methamphetamine from the liquid residue of previous batches. In the early morning hours of May 23, 1980, two Cape May police officers, pursuant to a warrant, secretly entered the house and removed a tray covered with drying methamphetamine. With the permission of the issuing Magistrate, the officers delayed returning an inventory, leaving the participants to speculate over what had happened to the missing tray.

On May 25, 1980, two Drug Enforcement Administration agents in Philadelphia monitored a meeting between respondent and Lazaro alongside Lazaro's car. At one point one of the agents saw respondent lean into the car. After Lazaro drove off, the agents stopped his car. They searched the car, Lazaro, and a passenger, Marianne Lazaro, but they found nothing and let the Lazaros leave. Marianne Lazaro later recounted that during the search she threw away a clear plastic bag containing white powder that her husband had handed to her after the meeting with respondent. Eight hours after the search, one of the agents returned to the scene of the crime and found a clear plastic bag containing a small quantity of methamphetamine.

From May 23 to May 27, 1980, the Cape May County Prosecutor's Office lawfully intercepted and recorded five telephone conversations between various participants in the conspiracy. These taped conversations were played for the jury at trial. The conversations dealt with various aspects of the conspiracy, including planned meetings and speculation about who had taken the missing tray from the house and who had set Lazaro up for the May 25 stop and search. Respondent sought to exclude the recorded statements of Lazaro and the other unindicted co-conspirators on the ground that the statements did not satisfy the requirements of Federal Rule of Evidence 801(d)(2)(E), governing admission of co-conspirator declarations.1 After listening to the tapes the trial court admitted the statements, finding that they were made by conspirators during the course of and in furtherance of the conspiracy, and thereby satisfied Rule 801(d)(2)(E).

Respondent also objected to admission of the statements on Confrontation Clause grounds, contending that the statements were inadmissible absent a showing that the declarants were unavailable. The court suggested that the prosecutor bring Lazaro to court in order to demonstrate unavailability. The court also asked defense counsel whether she wanted the prosecution to call Lazaro as a witness, and defense counsel stated that she would discuss the matter with her client. The co-conspirators' statements were admitted, conditioned on the prosecution's commitment to produce Lazaro. The Government subpoenaed Lazaro, but he failed to appear, claiming car trouble. The record does not indicate that the defense made any effort on its own part to secure Lazaro's presence in court.

Respondent renewed his Confrontation Clause objections, arguing that the Government had not met its burden of show- ing that Lazaro was unavailable to testify. The trial court overruled the objection, ruling that Lazaro's statements were admissible because they satisfied the co-conspirator rule.2

The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed. 748 F.2d 812 (1984). The court agreed that the Government had satisfied Rule 801(d)(2)(E), but decided that the Confrontation Clause established an independent requirement that the Government, as a condition to admission of any out-of-court statements, must show the unavailability of the declarant. 748 F.2d, at 818. The court derived this "unavailability rule" from Ohio v. Roberts, 448 U.S. 56, 100 S.Ct. 2531, 65 L.Ed.2d 597 (1980). The Court of Appeals rejected the Government's contention that Roberts did not require a showing of unavailability as to a nontestifying co-conspirator, finding that Roberts created a "clear constitutional rule" applicable to out-of-court statements generally. 748 F.2d, at 818. The court found no reason to create a special exception for co-conspirator statements, and therefore ruled Lazaro's statements inadmissible. Id., at 818-819.

We granted certiorari, 471 U.S. 1124, 105 S.Ct. 2653, 86 L.Ed.2d 271 (1985), to resolve the question whether the Confrontation Clause requires a showing of unavailability as a condition to admission of the out-of-court statements of a nontestifying co-conspirator, when those statements otherwise satisfy the requirements of Federal Rule of Evidence 801(d)(2)(E).3 We now reverse.

II
A.

The Court of Appeals derived its rule that the...

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