United States v. DiMaria

In United States v. DiMaria, 727 F.2d 265 (2d Cir. 1984), the defendant was prosecuted for his involvement in stealing cigarettes. His defense was that he thought that no tax had been paid on the cigarettes ("bootleg cigarettes"), but that he did not know they were stolen. In support of that position, defense counsel attempted to introduce evidence that the defendant told FBI agents arriving on the scene: "I thought you guys were just investigating white collar crime; what are you doing here? I only came here to get some cigarettes real cheap." Id. at 270. The District Court excluded that statement ruling that it was inadmissible hearsay. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed. That court held that the defendant's comment "stated, or so the jury could find, that his existing state of mind was to possess bootleg cigarettes, not stolen cigarettes. It was not offered to prove that the cigarettes were not stolen cigarettes but only to show that DiMaria did not think they were. . . . It was a statement of what he was thinking in the present." Id. at 271. The court also recognized that the Federal Rules of Evidence opted for the view that"the selfserving nature of such a declaration went only to its weight." Id. The court reasoned that"there is a peculiarly strong case for admitting statements like DiMaria's, however suspect, when the Government is relying on the presumption of guilty knowledge arising from a defendant's possession of the fruits of a crime recently after its commission." Id. at 272.