Considering Trial Transcripts From A Related Case At Sentencing

Since the FRE do not apply at sentencing under FRE 1101, can a district court consider the trial transcripts from related proceedings as part of its sentencing determination? The Eighth Circuit affirms this practice, in United States v. Mohamed, _ F.3d _ (8th Cir. July 2, 2014) (No. 13-2188)

FRE 1101(d)(3) provides that the FRE do not apply to certain listed proceedings including at sentencing. A recent Eighth Circuit case considered the admissibility of evidence used at sentencing from a related trial for purposes of imposing a sentencing enhancement.

Trial Court Sentencing

Defendant Mohamed was convicted after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists. At the sentencing hearing, the district court relied on transcripts from a related trial involving his co-conspirators. The district court imposed a sentence of 144 months in prison. On appeal, the defendant contended for the first time that the court erred by relying on the trial transcripts from another case.

Eighth Circuit Review: Affirming Use Of Trial Transcripts At Sentencing

Because no objection had been made at the sentencing hearing, the issue was reviewed for plain error. The Eighth Circuit found the argument to be "without merit." As the circuit concisely explained:

Congress says, “No limitation shall be placed on information concerning the background, character, and conduct of a person convicted of an offense which a court of the United States may receive and consider for the purpose of imposing an appropriate sentence.” 18 U.S.C. § 3661. The rules of evidence do not apply at a sentencing hearing. U.S.S.G. § 6A1.3(a); Fed. R. Evid. 1101(d)(3). As this court has explained, “[t]he practice of conducting a wide-ranging inquiry at sentencing is reflected in the United States Code, the Federal Rules of Evidence, and the Guidelines themselves.” United States v. Wise, 976 F.3d 393, 397 (8th Cir. 1992) (en banc). Because the transcripts of co-conspirators were relevant to Mohamed’s sentencing inquiry, the district court properly relied on them.

Mohamed, _ F.3d at _.

Conclusion

The Mohamed case shows the breadth of information that the sentencing court may consider at sentencing without regard to the FRE. However, the sentencing evidence must satisfy due process concerns. For other cases addressing the information that may be considered at sentencing, consider past posts in the Federal Evidence Blog:

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