Why is the case important?
Petitioner, Gray, was arrested and tried jointly with Anthony Bell for the murder of Stacey Williams. His conviction was obtained when a confession, by Bell, was used against Gray at trial. Gray sought to have his conviction overturned on the basis of improper admission of evidence.
Facts of the case
“In 1993, the State of Maryland tried Anthony Bell and Kevin Gray jointly for the murder of Stacy Williams. The State entered Bell’s confession into evidence at trial. According to the trial judge’s order, the police detective who read the confession said the word “”deleted”” or “”deletion”” whenever Gray’s name appeared. Subsequently, the prosecutor asked the detective if Bell’s confession led to Gray’s arrest. The detective answered that it did. Ultimately, Gray testified and Bell did not. When instructing the jury, the trial judge specified that the confession was evidence only against Bell. The jury convicted both Bell and Gray. Setting aside Gray’s conviction, Maryland’s intermediate appellate court applied Bruton v. United States, 391 U.S. 123, in which the Court held that, despite a limiting instruction that the jury should consider the confession as evidence only against the confessing codefendant, the introduction of such a confession at a joint trial violates the nonconfessing defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to cross-examine witnesses. Maryland’s highest court reinstated the conviction.”
Whether the confession of one defendant, whether or not it has been redacted to remove the mention of another defendant, can be used at a trial where both defendants are being tried.
In an opinion written by Justice Breyer, the Court held that such a confession was damaging to a defendant and would still lead a jury to suspect that deleted actually meant the other defendant who had not confessed.
“The Court held that in general, a co-defendant’s confession was a powerfully incriminating extrajudicial statement which, insulated from cross-examination, violated a criminal defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights. If a non-testifying co-defendant’s confession was redacted to eliminate the criminal defendant’s name and any reference to his or her existence, there was no violation of Sixth Amendment confrontation rights. However, as the confession used in Gray’s case was redacted simply by replacing petitioner’s name with a blank space or the word “”deleted,”” Gray’s confrontation rights were violated.”
- Case Brief: 1998
- Petitioner: Gray
- Respondent: Maryland
- Decided by: Rehnquist Court
Citation: 523 US 185 (1998)
Argued: Dec 8, 1997
Decided: Mar 9, 1998