Gray v. Maryland

LOCATION: United States Department of State

DOCKET NO.: 96-8653
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: Maryland Court of Appeals

CITATION: 523 US 185 (1998)
ARGUED: Dec 08, 1997
DECIDED: Mar 09, 1998

Arthur A. Delano, Jr. - Argued the cause for the petitioner
Carmen M. Shepard - Argued the cause for the respondent
Roy W Mcleese Iii - for U.S. as amicus curiae, by special leave of Court
Roy W. McLeese, III - Argued the cause for the United States, as amicus curiae, by special leave of court, supporting the respondent

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.


Does Bruton v. United States apply to a redaction that replaces a name with an obvious blank space or a symbol or a word such as "deleted?"

Media for Gray v. Maryland

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 08, 1997 in Gray v. Maryland

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument next in Number 96-8653, Kevin D. Gray v. Maryland.

We'll wait just a minute.

Mr. Delano.

Arthur A. Delano, Jr.:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

In this case the prosecution was entitled to use codefendant Bell's confession to prove Bell's guilt and nothing more.

Bell's confession contained two admissions that completely and fairly accomplished this purpose.

In his confession, Bell admitted both hitting and beating Stacey Willams.

The remaining portion of Bell's confession, which focused exclusively on establishing the role of and the identity of Bell's alleged accomplices, served no legitimate purpose.

The remaining portions of Bell's confession were nothing more than unreliable hearsay.

The remaining portions of Bell's confession should not have been admitted, because they created for petitioner a totally unnecessary risk of prejudice for petitioner.

The use of the terms, deleted and deletion in this case did not, in the words of the trial judge, sanitize Bell's confession.

The words, if anything, drew the jury's attention to the fact that a name had been omitted.

They in a sense acted as a red flag to the jury.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Mr. Delano, do you take the view that if this had been redacted a little differently, so that it didn't show deletion and so that it said, for example, who was in the group that beat Stacey... if it just said, me and a few other guys, for example, that would be okay?

Arthur A. Delano, Jr.:

I do not take that position, Your Honor.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

You don't think there's any way this could have been redacted that would satisfy you.

Arthur A. Delano, Jr.:

Oh, I disagree.

It could have been redacted--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

What do you disagree with?

Arthur A. Delano, Jr.:

--I disagree that it could have been redacted to allow in the simple statement that I hit and I struck the victim.

That is the only part--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

But you don't think it could be redacted to say, me and a few other guys.

Arthur A. Delano, Jr.:

--I don't believe that is necessary, Your Honor.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Well, I'm not asking whether it's necessary.

I'm asking whether it can be permitted constitutionally--

Arthur A. Delano, Jr.:

It should not be--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

--and it looks to me like that doesn't point to anybody, if you say, me and a few other guys.

Arthur A. Delano, Jr.:

--It does not point to a specific person.

Sandra Day O'Connor:


Arthur A. Delano, Jr.:

What it does--