Criminal Law Blog

Court didn’t shift the burden when instructing the jury that it could consider lack of alibi evidence


Donnell Thomas v. United States (decided April 28, 2016).

Players: Associate Judges Glickman and Blackburne-Rigsby, Senior Judge Steadman.  Opinion by Judge Glickman.  Ron Earnest for Mr. Thomas.  Trial judges: Ronna L. Beck and Robert I. Richter

A brief note on a jury note case – The deliberating jury at Mr. Thomas’s trial sent a note asking whether it could consider the absence of alibi evidence when it was evaluating the government’s proof of Mr. Thomas’s presence at the scene of the crime.  The trial court didn’t err when it instructed the jury that yes, it could consider the lack of contradictory evidence presented by the defense.  In the same instruction, the court reminded the jury that the defense had no burden to present any evidence.  The DCCA reasoned that the instruction did not impermissibly shift the burden to the defense because the jury is permitted to consider whether the government’s evidence has been contradicted.   As the DCCA pointed out, the Redbook instruction on witness credibility “tells the jury that it ‘may consider whether the witness has been contradicted or supported by other credible evidence.’”  Slip op. at 6 (quoting Criminal Jury Instructions No. 2.200 “Credibility of Witnesses”).  NG

Read full opinion here.