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Ninth Circuit Reverses Conviction after Prosecutors Improperly Questioned Defendant about Details of Prior Conviction

By Brandon Sample

The U.S. court of appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a defendant’s conviction for assaulting a guard after prosecutors improperly questioned the defendant concerning details of a prior bank fraud conviction.

Daniel Osazuwa, Jr., was ordered to serve 90 days at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Los Angeles after Osazuwa failed to make payments on his restitution. While at the MDC, Osazuwa allegedly assaulted Oscar Medina, a guard. Osazuwa denied assaulting Medina. Medina and Osazuwa were the only witnesses.

On cross-examination, the government asked Osazuwa about a prior bank fraud conviction for which Osazuwa served time. The government brought up the conviction in order to impeach Osazuwa’s credibility. In doing so, the government asked questions regarding details of the bank fraud conviction, emphasizing that Osazuwa had lied during the underlying fraud.

The Ninth Circuit held the government erred in delving into the details of the bank fraud conviction. “Allowing the prosecution to repeatedly question Osazuwa about his lack of truthfulness in the course of the bank fraud prejudicially tipped the scales against Osazuwa’s defense,” the court wrote. See: United States v. Osazuwa, 564 F.3d 1169 (9th Cir. 2009)

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Related legal case

United States v. Osazuwa