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Evidence — prejudice

United States Court of Appeals For the Seventh Circuit

Criminal

Evidence — prejudice

It was error to admit testimony that an informant had been instructed to get close to the defendant as part of an investigation into “possible cocaine trafficking,” but the error was harmless.

“Vargas now appeals his conviction, arguing that the district court erred by allowing Rojo to testify that he had been told to get close to Vargas because of ‘possible cocaine trafficking.’ We agree with Vargas that the statement should not have been admitted, but the court’s error was harmless in light of the overwhelming evidence showing Vargas’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Vargas also finds error in the district court’s refusal to admit a portion of his videotaped arrest during which he blurted, ‘I was here buying a truck, man!’ He believes the statement should have been admitted under the doctrine of completeness. We disagree. That doctrine is confined by the strictures of the hearsay rule, and Vargas cannot identify a hearsay exception that applies. Finally, Vargas claims that he must be given a new trial because the district court failed to inform the jury that it could not convict him for simply being at the scene of a crime. But the jury charge adequately covered Vargas’s defense theory and required the jury to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Vargas intended to possess cocaine and he knowingly took a substantial step toward that aim. So Vargas’s requested ‘mere presence’ instruction was not relevant and the district court did not err by refusing to give it. For these reasons, we affirm Vargas’s conviction.”

Affirmed.

11-1661 U.S. v. Vargas

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Kennelly, J., Williams, J.


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