U.S. v. Doswell, No. 11-4190

Decided Mar. 2, 2012

While Anthony Doswell was on supervised release from his 1994 prison sentence for robbery, his probation officer submitted a Notice of Violation that stated, among other allegations, that Doswell had been convicted of marijuana possession. Later, the officer submitted a Supplemental Notice that claimed Doswell was responsible for the possession and distribution of heroin. The heroin charges had been nolle prossed and resulted in no conviction. Nevertheless, at a hearing to revoke Doswell’s release, the government submitted the statements of the arresting officer and the drug analysis report. These items, over Doswell’s objections, were admitted as evidence and relied on by the district court to revoke Doswell’s release and send him jail for 24 months.

Doswell appealed arguing that he had not been given proper notice of the Supplemental Notice before the hearing and that the judge impermissibly relied on hearsay evidence to revoke his release. Without reaching the notice issue, the Fourth Circuit vacated and remanded the case because of the district court’s reliance on hearsay evidence. Rule 32.1 specifically allows for the questioning of witnesses unless the interest of justice does not require it. The judge’s failure to allow the defense to test the reliability of the drug report amounted to an abuse of discretion.

Full Opinion

-C. Alexander Cable

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