United States v. Caldwell

Facts of the Case

Defendant Akeem Caldwell was arrested for possession of firearm. Caldwell provided his identity to the arresting officers, and a records search revealed that he had a prior criminal record. Caldwell was then transported to the Allegheny County Jail for processing. Caldwell was charged under 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. In the course of cross-examining Caldwell during the first trial, the Government sought to introduce, under both Rule 404(b) and Rule 609(a)(1)(B) of the Federal Rules of Evidence, two prior convictions for unlawful firearm possession. With respect to Rule 404(b), the Government argued the evidence was admissible to show knowledge and absence of mistake or accident. Caldwell’s counsel countered that absence of mistake and knowledge was irrelevant because the only issue in the case was whether Caldwell actually possessed the gun. The first trial resulted in a mistrial. During the second trial, the Government again sought to introduce Caldwell’s prior convictions during cross-examination. The court ruled that the evidence was admissible. At the close of the second trial, the jury returned a verdict convicting Caldwell of the charged offense. The District Court sentenced Caldwell to 77 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Caldwell timely filed the present appeal, arguing that the district court erred in admitting his two prior convictions for unlawful weapons possession.


Did the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of the press protect Caldwell from appearing and testifying before the grand jury?


No. The Court found that requiring reporters to disclose confidential information to grand juries served a compelling and paramount state interest and did not violate the First Amendment. Justice White argued that since the case involved no government intervention to impose prior restraint, and no command to publish sources or to disclose them indiscriminately, there was no Constitutional violation. The fact that reporters receive information from sources in confidence does not privilege them to withhold that information during a government investigation