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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 136968 Find in a Library
Title: Case for the Admissibility of Defense Testimony About Customary Political Practices in Official Corruption Prosecutions
Journal: American Criminal Law Review  Volume:29  Issue:1  Dated:(Fall 1991)  Pages:1-34
Author(s): E J Imwinkelried; E Margolin
Date Published: 1991
Page Count: 34
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This legal article demonstrates that testimony by other legislators can be logically relevant to the material facts of consequence in a Hobbs Act trial. Exclusionary doctrines that prosecutors frequently cite as a basis for barring other legislators' testimony in Hobbs Act cases are examined.
Abstract: The Hobbs Act was passed in 1942 to extend the reach of earlier racketeering legislation. A violation of the act is neither a strict liability nor a general mens rea crime. Rather, the violation is a special mens rea offense. As such, the act does not impose a blanket prohibition on politicians from seeking political contributions, but merely prohibits a species of extortion. Specifically, the act forbids the legislator from knowingly inducing a person to pay the legislator money or other property by threatening to take or withhold official action. Testimony by other legislators may be relevant to negate mens rea elements of a charged offense. Since the testimony is relevant under Federal Rule of Evidence 401, it is presumptively admissible under Rule 402. The testimony, however, can still be barred under recognized exclusionary rules. One applicable exclusionary doctrine restricts the admissibility of expert testimony. Another applicable exclusionary doctrine empowers the trial judge to bar relevant evidence when probative dangers incidental to the admission of evidence significantly outstrip the probative worth of evidence. The authors suggest that trial judges should rethink their attitudes toward prosecution attempts to block the admission of testimony by other legislators in official corruption prosecutions. Legislators are not above the law; if the prosecution proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused has violated the Hobbs Act, the accused should be held criminally responsible. 210 footnotes
Main Term(s): Corruption of public officials; Rules of evidence
Index Term(s): Exclusionary rule; Hobbs Act of 1946
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