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88 Columbia La Review 79 1988


This article examines the increasing role of the Chapman Rule and its effect on the harmless error doctrine and outlines a coherent doctrine of constitutional error responsive to the purposes of the various constitutional protections afforded criminal defendants. Part I evaluates the Court's existing harmless error jurisprudence. Part II proposes a harmless error doctrine that, unlike the Court's approach, responds to constitutional values unrelated to truth determination. The last two parts of the Article address two problems precipitated by the use of outcome-oriented rules to define and remedy constitutional error. Part III discusses when such a rule should be used at trial to decide when constitutional error has occurred. Finally, Part IV develops a formulation of the Chapman rule that ensures that appellate courts will not rely upon their own evaluations of the weight and credibility of the evidence in deciding whether a constitutional error has affected the outcome.


This article is co-authored by Tom Stacy, Visiting Associate Professor of Law, University of Kansas. B.A. 1979; J.D. 1893, University of Michigan.