United States v. Reyes-Guerrero, No. 09-2239 (1st Cir. 2011)Annotate this Case
The defendants, arrested in a reverse sting operation after they drove to a sham drug deal in a vehicle containing $100,000 in cash, were each convicted of a single drug conspiracy count. The First Circuit vacated and remanded. The court first acknowledged that, taking into account only unchallenged evidence, the record was sufficient for a jury to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was more than an innocent bystander to the transaction. However, tainted evidence was central to the prosecution's case and potentially disastrous to the defense. The court erred in allowing "overview" testimony by the lead officer, announcing the defendants' roles in the conspiracy, although the officer was not a witness to many of the events; the witness was no better suited than the jury to put the pieces together. The testimony also implicitly "vouched" for later testimony. The officer's testimony about the post-arrest interview statements of a third defendant, who offered to cooperate, violated the Confrontation Clause, even though the cooperating defendant was not directly quoted.