Bourjaily v. United States Case Brief

Why is the case important?

Clarence Greathouse (“Mr. Greathouse”), while working as an informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), arranged to sell a kilogram of cocaine to Angelo Lonardo (“Mr. Lonardo”).

Facts of the case

“William Bourjaily was arrested after receiving a quantity of cocaine in a parking lot from Angelo Lonardo. At Bourjaily’s trial, the government introduced statements Lonardo made in a telephone conversation with an informant regarding a “”friend”” who had questions about the cocaine. The district court, considering the events in the parking lot and Lonardo’s statements over the telephone, found that the government had established that a conspiracy existed between Bourjaily and Lonardo, and that Lonardo’s statements over the telephone had been made in the course of and in furtherance of the conspiracy. Accordingly, the court held that Lonardo’s out-of-court statements satisfied Federal Rule of Evidence 801(d)(2)(E) and were not hearsay.”


Whether the court must determine by independent evidence that a conspiracy existed and that the defendant and the declarant were members of this conspiracy?


No. Even though the rule has since been rewritten to allow some bootsrapping, as long as there is some independent corroboration independent evidence is not needed.


The Court held that in making a preliminary factual determination under Rule 801(d)(2)(E) as to whether the conspiracy existed and that defendant and the declarant were members of the conspiracy, the trial court could examine the hearsay statements sought to be admitted. The Court further rejected any suggestion that the admission of statements against defendant violated his rights under the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment . As the requirements for admission under Fed. R. Evid. 801(d)(2)(E) were identical to the requirements of the Confrontation Clause and because the statements were admissible under the Rule, there was no constitutional problem. The Confrontation Clause did not require a trial court to embark on an independent inquiry into the reliability of statements that satisfied the requirements of Rule 801(d)(2)(E) .

  • Case Brief: 1987
  • Petitioner: Bourjaily
  • Respondent: United States
  • Decided by: Rehnquist Court

Citation: 483 US 171 (1987)
Argued: Apr 1, 1987
Decided: Jun 23, 1987