Richardson v. Marsh Case Brief

Why is the case important?

Respondent Marsh was tried with another defendant in a murder trial. The codefendant’s redacted confession was introduced at trial.

Facts of the case

“Clarissa Marsh, Benjamin Williams, and Kareem Martin were charged with the assault of Cynthia Knighton and the murder of her four-year-old son, Koran, and her aunt, Ollie Scott. Despite Marsh’s objections, she and Williams were tried jointly. The prosecution entered Williams’ confession into evidence, although the confession was redacted to prevent any mention of anyone other than Williams and Martin being involved in the crime. In his closing argument, the prosecution admonished the jury not to use Williams’ confession against Marsh but linked her testimony to events in the confession. The judge also instructed the jury not to use the confession against Marsh. Marsh was convicted, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed, and the Michigan Supreme Court denied the appeal.Marsh filed a writ of habeas corpus and argued that the introduction of the confession violated her rights under the Confrontation Clause. The district court denied the petition. The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed.”

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Conclusion

The United States Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the appellate court, holding that the introduction of the codefendant’s confession did not violate the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment because it was proper to presume that the jury would obey the limiting instruction. According to the Court, the improbability that a jury would be able to disregard a codefendant’s expressly incriminating confession did not apply to a confession from which every reference to the defendant had been redacted. On remand, the lower court was directed to consider whether the prosecutor’s comments seeking to undo the limiting instruction by urging the jury to use the confession against defendant served as a basis for the writ of habeas corpus in light of defendant’s failure to object.

  • Case Brief: 1987
  • Petitioner: Gloria Richardson, Warden
  • Respondent: Clarissa Marsh
  • Decided by: Rehnquist Court

Citation: 481 US 200 (1987)
Argued: Jan 14, 1987
Decided: Apr 21, 1987
Granted Jun 9, 1986