U.S. v. Phillips, No. 16-6667 (SUTTON, Donald, Thapar).
The defendant appealed his conviction for conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, arguing in part than an IRS agent called as a lay witness should not have been allowed to testify as to his opinion that the defendant was part of a conspiracy and received proceeds derived from criminal activity.
The Sixth Circuit noted that “the court at a minimum toed the abuse-of-discretion line” when it allowed the testimony, but found any potential error to be harmless because the thrust of the question was whether the defendant conspired to launder money, and the jury acquitted the defendant on that charge. The district court also cured any error by instructing the jury that it was to decide the issue for itself, based on the facts as the jury finds them, whether or not the jurors come to the same conclusion as the agent.