United States v. Brackeen
969 F.2d 827 (1992)

  • Brackeen was arrested and charged with robbing three banks.
    • In the first robbery, Brackeen operated with an accomplice named Moore, who had a gun, in the second two he operated alone and unarmed.
  • Brackeen pleaded guilty to the second two robberies, but for the first robbery, he claimed that he did know that Moore was armed.
    • Armed robbery had much higher punishments than unarmed robbery.
  • At trial, Brackeen took the stand to testify.  On cross-examination, the prosecution attempted to introduce evidence of Brackeen’s two guilty pleas.
    • Brackeen objected on the grounds that the evidence was inadmissible.
  • The Trial Judge allowed the evidence to be admitted under FRE 609(a)(2).
    • FRE 609(a)(2) allows for impeachment of a defendant for any crime involving “dishonesty or false statement.”
      • The prosecution argued that bank robbery is stealing, which is inherently dishonest.
  • The Trial Court found Brackeen guilty of the armed robbery.  He appealed.
  • The Appellate Court reversed and remanded for a new trial.
    • The Appellate Court found that the term “dishonesty” only refers to those crimes involving deceit, such as perjury, fraud, or embezzlement.
    • Since bank robbery is not a crime of deceit, evidence of a prior conviction for bank robbery cannot be admitted under FRE 609(a)(2).
      • It could be admitted under FRE 609(a)(1), but there would need to be a balancing test to determine if the evidence’s probative value outweighed it’s prejudicial effect.