Oral argument: Mar. 21, 2012
Appealed from: United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (Mar. 14, 2011)
HARMLESS ERROR, SIXTH AMENDMENT, OVERWHELMING EVIDENCE
The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois convicted Alexander Vasquez of conspiring to possess with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine. However, the district court had erroneously admitted statements made during recorded telephone conversations by Marina Perez into evidence for their truth. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that the lower court’s error was harmless because the jury would have come to the same conclusion had there been no error. Vasquez now appeals, arguing that the Seventh Circuit misapplied the harmless-error analysis by ignoring the impact the error had on the jury. The Supreme Court will decide how courts should properly carry out harmless-error tests, as well as examine the possible constitutional questions such an error would create.