United States v. Brown
299 F.3d 1252 (1999)

  • Brown was returning to the US from Bermuda when customs agents found drugs in her luggage.
    • Brown claimed no knowledge of how the drugs got into her luggage.
  • At trial, the prosecution offered the testimony of a DEA agent as an expert witness to testify that Brown had $217k of drugs in her luggage, and there was no way that anyone would entrust so much drugs to an unknowing carrier.
    • Brown objected on the grounds that the testimony was hearsay.
      • The DEA agent was relying on information provided to him by other DEA agents.  He had never actually bought drugs in Bermuda.
    • The Trial Judge permitted the testimony to be entered into evidence.
  • Under cross-examination, Brown attempted to introduce pricing information to show that the drugs were worth significantly less than $217k.
    • The prosecution objected, claiming that the price list was irrelevant.
      • The DEA agent had not used the price list in preparing his testimony.
  • The Trial Judge excluded the cross-examination and Brown’s price list.
  • The Trial Court found Brown guilty of smuggling drugs.  She appealed.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed.
    • The Appellate Court found that the Trial Judge did not err in allowing the DEA agent to testify based on information he did not personally possess.
      • FRE 703 allows experts to rely upon data which itself would not have been admissible, if this data is “of a type reasonably relied upon by experts in the particular field in forming opinions.
        • Basically, even though the evidence was basically hearsay, it was ok, since DEA agents often rely on each other for information.
    • The Appellate Court found that the Trial Judge properly excluded the cross examination and the price list because they might have misled the jury and were therefore excludable under FRE 403.