Suppressing Evidence Made by a Co-Defendant

In cases that involve many individuals who are charged with the commission of the same crime, it has increasingly become a problem for one person’s legal counsel to hear incriminating statements about the person from another individual who was involved in the offense. Fortunately, the Bruton doctrine can be used to suppress these statements. If you require assistance in filing a Bruton motion, retain the assistance of a skilled attorney.

The Role of the Bruton Doctrine

The Bruton Doctrine is named after the defendant in a case involving co-conspirators. In this case, the court found that the Confrontation Clause under the Sixth Amendment was violated by the admission of one co-defendant’s statement that incriminates another defendant unless the co-defendant testifies at trial. In order for the Bruton Doctrine to be used, there must be several requirements that apply, such as:

  • There must be at least two defendants,
  • One defendant’s statements must be used against the other person, and
  • The defendant making the statement must not testify at trial.

What Constitutes Testimony Under the Bruton Doctrine

Over time, the Bruton Doctrine has been narrowed to only apply to testimony that is provided by co-defendants. If a co-defendant is not found by the court to have provided testimony, then this information will not be excluded because it will not be found subject to the Confrontation Clause. Courts in the United States have found statements constitute testimony if they are intended to act as information against the other defendant. Because it can be difficult to determine whether a statement constitutes testimony, a skilled attorney will always file a Bruton motion to suppress statements that are made by co-defendants.

Additional Law Regarding Confrontation Statements

Over the years, there have been various court cases that have further defined how Supreme Court cases will be heard. The Supreme court later held that the admission of a non-testifying co-defendant’s confessions does not constitute a violation of the defendant’s right under the confrontation clause, provided that the court has instructed the jury not to use the confession against the defendant. The Supreme Court also later held that the prohibition in Bruton extends to redacted confessions in which the name of the defendant is replaced by a blank space.

Another lower court ruled that the Bruton issue exists only when a co-defendant makes a statement that implicates the defendant in the commission of an offense. An additional lower court also rejected that Bruton should be construed only against individuals who make confessions to law enforcement officers.

Consult with a Knowledgeable Criminal Defense Lawyer

The principal of “corpus delicti” states that a confession is not enough to convict a person of an offense. “Corpus delicti” helps to guard against a defendant’s statements. While some people charged with a crime believe that “corpus delicti” offers a great deal of protection, it is important to know that in many cases prosecution is able to create a charge by introducing any type of evidence that someone committed the crime in addition to the testimony. As a result, evidence that is admitted by co-defendants has the potential to significantly influence the outcome of a person’s case. The legal counsel at The Federal Criminal Law Center is skilled at passing Bruton motions and helping defendants involved in these types of cases.