United States v. Mezzanatto

PETITIONER: United States
RESPONDENT: Mezzanatto
LOCATION: U.S. Department of Transportation

DOCKET NO.: 93-1340
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 513 US 196 (1995)
ARGUED: Nov 02, 1994
DECIDED: Jan 18, 1995

ADVOCATES:
Miguel A. Estrada - on behalf of the Petitioner
Mark R. Lippman - on behalf of the Respondent

Facts of the case

Question

Media for United States v. Mezzanatto

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 02, 1994 in United States v. Mezzanatto

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - January 18, 1995 in United States v. Mezzanatto

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the court in number 93-1340 United States versus Mezzanatto will be announced by Justice Thomas.

Clarence Thomas:

This case comes to us on a writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

After respondent was charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute, he and his attorney asked to meet with the prosecutor to discuss the possibility of cooperating with the government.

The prosecutor agreed to meet the respondent but on the condition that respondent?s statements could be used to impeach in the contradictory testimony he might give a trial if the case proceeded that far.

Respondent conferred with his attorney and agreed to the prosecutor?s terms.

The pre-discussions were ultimately unsuccessful and respondent testified a trial on his own behalf when respondent contradicted statements he made to the prosecutor the government introduced his plea statements to impeach him.

Respondent objected on the ground that statements made during plea negotiations are inadmissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 410 and Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(e)(6).

The District Court overruled respondent?s objection but the Ninth Circuit reversed.

The Ninth Circuit held that respondent?s agreement was unenforceable.

In an opinion filed with the clerk today we now reverse.

The plea statement rule says nothing about waiver, but this does not foreclose voluntary wavier agreements.

The rules must be read against the background presumption that legal rights generally and evidentiary provisions specifically are subject to waiver.

Respondent there has a burden of identifying some affirmative basis for concluding that the plea statement rules depart from the presumption of waivability.

Justice Souter has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice Stevens has joined.