Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Khan: Defense ran the risk that video conferencing witnesses would fail

In U.S. v. Khan, No. 13-14048 (July 23, 2015), the Court affirmed convictions for providing material aid to terrorists. The Court rejected the challenge to a translator’s use of bracketed words to explain the meaning of intercepted telephone conversations. The Court found that the bracketed words appropriately transported “living thoughts” from one language to another. The Court also rejected challenges to rulings made during the testimony of the government’s case agent. The Court found that any error in admitting as expert testimony the case agent’s non-expert testimony about the meaning of words used in conversations was harmless, in light of other testimony on the same topic. Though acknowledging that prosecutors should not permit investigators to give “overview testimony” about the results of a criminal investigation, the Court found that the case agent testified based on his personal knowledge of recorded conversations. The Court found no error in the limitation of cross-examination about a government informant, finding that the topics were irrelevant, or merely aimed to bolster the defendant’s credibility, not to undermine a witness’s credibility. The Court found no error in not allowing the defense to cross-examine the case agent about a Pakistani police report that purportedly exonerated Khan. The report was not in evidence, and offered no conclusions, but simply relayed hearsay statements. During the trial, the video-conference testimony of defense witnesses from Pakistan ceased when internet connection failed, most likely as the result of Pakistan police interference. The district court denied a defense request for a continuance to obtain the testimony. The Court found that the defense elected to run the risk that, in failing to obtain Pakistan government approval for the depositions, the depositions would be shut down. Moreover, it was undetermined how long it would take to re-establish internet connection.