Welcome to CR-CL’s Live Blog of the Ames Moot Court Semi-Finals!
Please scroll down for the live blog. We’ll start blogging shortly before 6:15 PM on March 11, 2019.
The Ames Competition is a long-standing tradition at Harvard Law School. The students have gone through numerous rounds of both brief writing and appellate advocacy to be here today. We are honored to have a number of sitting federal judges presiding over the competition as well.
As part of a more recent tradition, CR-CL will be live-blogging the event here on our Amicus Blog. Our bloggers tonight will be Blair Ganson and David Shea.
Below is the background information on the case from the Board of Student Advisors (BSA) which includes a full list of competing team members and the presiding judges for this evening. This information along with the teams’ briefs, can be found here.
Commonwealth v. Scanlon (March 11th, 6:15pm)
The state police of the Commonwealth of Ames launched an investigation after observing an uptick of gun sales to minors. Their investigation quickly led them to identify Scott Scanlon, who ran a lawful family gun shop along with his sister Susan, as a suspect.
As part of the investigation, the police obtained two digital audio recordings – made long before the police hypothesized that any illegal gun sales occurred – of conversations between Scott and Susan in which Scott makes statements about the difficulties facing the gun shop and the need for the business to branch out and make more money.
Although police ultimately concluded that Scott was the primary wrongdoer, they uncovered evidence that Susan participated in the scheme to sell guns illegally. For example, while executing a search warrant in Susan’s presence, the police discovered that metal gun shavings created when the guns were modified to remove their serial numbers to make them harder to track were found in a pair of Susan’s sneakers. However, a typographical error in the police report – undisclosed until trial – suggested that the metal shavings were found in men’s sneakers.
Ultimately, prosecutors indicted Scott and Susan for conspiring to sell guns to minors in violation of state law. Shortly after they were arraigned, however, Scott died from an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound, and the charges against him were dismissed. Susan was left as the sole defendant in the case.
During trial, the Commonwealth introduced evidence tying Susan to the conspiracy. This included the audio recordings of Scott’s statements made before any illegal activities had occurred, which the court ruled was admissible under Rule of Evidence 801(d)(2)(E), which makes statements of “coconspirators” admissible. The Commonwealth also introduced evidence concerning the metal gun shavings found in Susan’s sneakers. The Commonwealth also called the Scanlons’ accountant friend, someone that Susan knew to be involved with his own unsavory business affairs, to testify about Susan’s role in managing the money obtained from illegal gun sales, but the Commonwealth failed to disclose until after trial that this accountant was himself under investigation for securities fraud by another state agency.
After trial, Susan Scanlon was convicted of conspiracy and sentenced to a term of incarceration. In post-trial motions, she challenged the Court’s decision to admit the audio recordings under the coconspirator exception to the hearsay rule. She also asserted that the prosecution violated is obligations under Brady v. Maryland by failing to disclose (1) the police officer’s typographical error in his report concerning her shoes and (2) the Commonwealth’s investigation of the accountant for securities fraud.
The Bhagat Singh Thind Memorial Team (Appellant)
Lolita De Palma
The Janet Wood Reno Memorial Team (Appellee)
The Honorable Patty Shwartz of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
The Honorable Catherine Blake of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland
The Honorable Amit Mehta of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia