Bruton Error Law and Legal Definition

Bruton error refers to the violation of a criminal defendant’s constitutional right of confrontation. An accused has the right to confront and cross-examine the government's witnesses against him/her. This right is guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In Bruton v. United States, 391 U.S. 123 (U.S. 1968), it was held that the constitutional right of a defendant is violated if a confessing defendant's statement is used against a non-confessing defendant at their joint trial.

Generally, a Bruton error is one of constitutional dimension, and such error can, under some circumstances, be harmless constitutional error. There have been holdings that a Bruton error is not harmful in joint trials when the confessions of co-defendants essentially corroborate, interlock, and support each other. [Bass v. State, 527 S.W.2d 556, 562 (Tex. Crim. App. 1975)].