United States v. James Case Brief

Why is the case important?

Ernestine James’s (Defendant-Appellant’s) boyfriend, David Ogden (decedent) was killed by Defendant-Appellant’s daughter, Jaylene Jeffries (Jeffries), and, as a result, Defendant-Appellant was convicted by a Federal District Court of the crime of aiding and abetting manslaughter. At trial, Defendant-Appellant raised the defense of self-defense in the original action. A dividend panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed her conviction in her first appeal, and she appeals that decision here. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reverses the conviction.

Facts of the case




“The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reverses the conviction, and holds as follows:

  • corroboration of a prosecution witness by the admission of criminal records is permissible, so long as the probative value of the evidence is not outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.”


    The Court held that the trial court erred in excluding relevant evidence corroborating appellant’s testimony. The Court found that the trial court’s interpretation of the evidence was too narrow. Because it was necessary to James’ defense that the jury believe her, the evidence should have been admitted because it corroborated her testimony. Because the crux of appellant’s defense rested on her credibility and because the excluded evidence directly corroborated her credibility, exclusion of the evidence was prejudicial and more probably than not affected the verdict.

    • Case Brief: 1986
    • Petitioner: United States
    • Respondent: James
    • Decided by: Burger Court

    Citation: 478 US 597 (1986)
    Argued: Apr 21, 1986
    Decided: Jul 2, 1986