Ohler v. United States, 529 U.S. 753, 7 (2000)

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Cite as: 529 U. S. 753 (2000)

Opinion of the Court

But here Ohler runs into the position taken by the Court in a similar, but not identical, situation in Luce v. United States, 469 U. S. 38 (1984), that "[a]ny possible harm flowing from a district court's in limine ruling permitting impeachment by a prior conviction is wholly speculative." Id., at 41. Only when the Government exercises its option to elicit the testimony is an appellate court confronted with a case where, under the normal rules of trial, the defendant can claim the denial of a substantial right if in fact the district court's in limine ruling proved to be erroneous. In our view, there is nothing "unfair," as Ohler puts it, about putting her to her choice in accordance with the normal rules of trial.

Finally, Ohler argues that applying this rule to her situation unconstitutionally burdens her right to testify. She relies on Rock v. Arkansas, 483 U. S. 44 (1987), where we held that a prohibition of hypnotically refreshed testimony interfered with the defendant's right to testify. But here the rule in question does not prevent Ohler from taking the stand and presenting any admissible testimony which she chooses. She is of course subject to cross-examination and subject to impeachment by the use of a prior conviction. In a sense, the use of these tactics by the Government may deter a defendant from taking the stand. But, as we said in McGautha v. California, 402 U. S. 183, 215 (1971):

"It has long been held that a defendant who takes the stand in his own behalf cannot then claim the privilege against cross-examination on matters reasonably related to the subject matter of his direct examination. . . . It is not thought overly harsh in such situations to require that the determination whether to waive the privilege take into account the matters which may be brought out on cross-examination. It is also generally recognized that a defendant who takes the stand in his own behalf may be impeached by proof of prior convictions or the like. . . . Again, it is not thought inconsistent with the enlightened administration of criminal justice to require


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