U.S. v. Littlefield – Case Brief Summary (Federal Court)

In U.S. v. Littlefield (1st Cir. 1988) 840 F.2d 143, the appellant and 11 other individuals were charged in a 35-count indictment alleging a scheme to defraud the state and federal governments by filing false claims for unemployment benefits based upon purported employment with seven fictitious companies.

All other defendants pled guilty. A handwriting expert testified that his examination showed that the appellant had signed documents, under different names, as the owner or operator of six of the fictitious companies.

CALJIC No. 2.03 was given to the jury on evidence that prior to trial the appellant had denied having heard of the six fictitious companies.

The government argued that such statements were clearly misleading because a connection between appellant and the companies was proved based on the handwriting expert's testimony.

The court determined that CALJIC No. 2.03 was inappropriate because it was "the direct evidence of appellant's guilt - the handwriting testimony - that allowed the jury to draw an inference of consciousness of guilt from the appellant's statement." (Littlefield, at p. 149.)