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Court Rules Defendant's Statements Were Unconstitutionally Obtained, But Error Harmless

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By FindLaw Staff on February 22, 2010 12:34 PM

In Tolliver v. Sheets, No. 08-3177, the Sixth Circuit faced a criminal defendant's challenge to his conviction for murder claiming that his statements to the police were unconstitutionally obtained and thus improperly admitted at trial, and that his ineffective assistance claim was not procedurally defaulted.

In rejecting the defendant's claims the court stated: "if all of the statements the prosecution used at trial to argue that defendant had lied when speaking to the police had been improperly admitted, this would be a closer case.  In fact, however, many of the statements were properly admitted.  The prosecution's infrequent references to defendant's improperly-admitted statements thus 'were, in effect, cumulative.'"

Thus, the court found that, given the weighty evidence pointing to defendant's guilt, the trial court's error in admitting his unconstitutionally-obtained statements was harmless.  Furthermore, the court rejected defendant's ineffective assistance claim as he did not demonstrate good cause for procedural default of the claim.

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