Dowling v. United States

Facts of the Case

Petitioner Dowling was convicted of robbing a Virgin Islands bank while wearing a ski mask and carrying a small pistol. Relying on– which provides that evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts may be admissible against a defendant for purposes other than character evidence — the Government introduced at trial the testimony of one Henry, who stated that a similarly masked and armed Dowling had been one of two intruders who had entered her home two weeks after the bank robbery. Although Dowling had been acquitted of charges in the Henry case, the Government believed that Henry’s description of him strengthened its identification of him as the bank robber and that her testimony linked him to another individual thought to be implicated in the bank robbery. The District Court permitted the introduction of the testimony and twice instructed the jury about Dowling’s acquittal and the limited purpose for which the testimony was being admitted. The Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction, ruling that, although the Government was collaterally estopped by the acquittal from offering Henry’s testimony at trial and the testimony was inadmissible under the Federal Rules of Evidence, its admission was harmless because it was highly probable that the error did not prejudice Dowling. The Court of Appeals declined to apply the more stringent standard of, applicable to constitutional errors because the District Court’s error was evidentiary and not of constitutional dimension. Petitioner Dowling sought review.


Did the California Court of Appeal err in holding that a reference to state law in an arbitration clause required the application of that state law despite its preemption by the Federal Arbitration Act?



Case Information

Citation: 473 US 207 (1985)
Argued: Apr 17, 1985
Decided: Jun 28, 1985
Case Brief: 1985