Expert Article Library

Document Fraud Expert

Case Name: United States v. Jawara (Click here for the full text of the case)

Court: U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit

Date: January 19, 2007

Expert: Immigration and Asylum. Carolyn Bayer-Broring, forensic document examiner with Department of Homeland Security, and Darrick Smalley, senior special agent with Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Issues: Whether the district court erred in denying appellant’s motions: to sever the two counts against him, to suppress physical evidence, and to conduct a pre-trial hearing addressing the reliability of expert testimony. Appellant also challenged various evidentiary rulings by the district court.

Summary of case: Appellant was convicted for document fraud related to his personal asylum application and conspiracy to commit marriage fraud to avoid the immigration laws. The district court sentenced appellant to 10 months of confinement followed by two years of supervised release.

Role of the expert: Bayer-Broring testified as to the authenticity (or lack thereof) of appellant’s documents. Bayer-Broring also testified that the identity card and death certificate recovered from appellant’s apartment were counterfeit. Smalley testified as to a number of issues, including: his role in the investigation, the asylum process in general, and the importance of country conditions in asylum determinations.

Challenges to the Expert's testimony: Defense counsel objected to Smalley’s testimony that: (1) based on his review of State Department country reports, country conditions in Sierra Leone were comparatively worse than in The Gambia; (2) a substantially larger percentage of asylum applications were received from natives of Sierra Leone than The Gambia; and (3) based on his review of various computer indices the Maraka tribe (to which appellant had claimed membership in his asylum application) was not located in Sierra Leone but in The Gambia. The appellate court concluded that the two counts against appellant were unrelated in nature and purpose, temporal scope, physical location, modes of operation, and key evidence. However, the error did not require reversal because appellant had not established that he was prejudiced by the misjoinder of the two counts. The appellate court thus affirmed appellant’s conviction.

Summary prepared by W. McLennan, Student, U.C. Hastings College of the Law