Vanderbilt Law Review


Margaret Dodson

First Page



Joint criminal trials are a relatively common practice in the American criminal justice system. When multiple criminal defendants are charged in a single crime-especially in conspiracy cases-courts and prosecutors alike favor joint trials because of their comparable efficiency to individual trials. However, joint trials can raise significant procedural and constitutional concerns for codefendants. One such issue arises when the government seeks to introduce the confession of a non-testifying defendant (hereinafter a "declarantdefendant") that inculpates other codefendants.

When introduced, such confessions raise potential Sixth Amendment issues under Bruton v. United States. A Bruton violation occurs in a joint trial when a confession of a declarant-defendant refusing to testify under the Fifth Amendment is introduced at trial and inculpates another codefendant, therefore violating the nonconfessing codefendant's Sixth Amendment right to confront all witnesses presented against him.

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