United States v. Ibisevic, No. 11-4151

Decided Mar. 14, 2012

Samir Ibisevic was convicted based on his attempt to leave the United States carrying approximately $40,000 in United States currency without reporting the currency to customs authorities. Ibisevic moved for a new trial. The district court denied Ibisevic’s motion. The district court acknowledged that it erred in excluding testimony proffered by Ibisevic’s mother, that when customs officials asked the Ibisevics to step aside, Ibisevic told his mother in Bosnian, “They are asking me how much the checked luggage costs if it’s lost.” The district court concluded that this error was harmless. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, however, was not persuaded that the error did not have a substantial and injurious effect. The Court found that the error affected the central issue in the case, Ibisevic’s intent; the district court took no steps to mitigate the effects of the error; and the closeness of the case did not weigh in favor of finding the error harmless. Therefore, because of the potential effect on the jury verdict of the error, and the Court vacated the judgment and remanded the case.

Full Opinion

-Sara I. Salehi

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