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United States v. Figueroa-Rivera

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

March 10, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
JULIO CESAR FIGUEROA-RIVERA, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART GOVERNMENT'S MOTIONS IN LIMINE (DOCS. 58 AND 62) AND SUPPLEMENTAL RULING ON GOVERNMENT'S MOTION IN LIMINE (DOC. 57)

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court upon the following motions filed by the Government, following a hearing:[1]

• Motion in Limine Seeking Pretrial Ruling on Excluding Hearsay Statements, filed February 16, 2017 (Doc. 58); and • Motion in Limine Seeking Pretrial Ruling on Admissibility of Extra-Judicial Statements and Audio-Recorded Evidence, filed February 24, 2017 (Doc. 62).
• The Court also enters a supplemental ruling on conversations which the Government seeks to admit regarding its Motion in Limine Seeking Trial Ruling on Admissibility of Evidence, (Doc. 57).

         The relevant background facts are set out in the Memorandum Opinion and Order denying Defendant's motion to suppress (Doc. 38) as well as the Government's brief (Doc. 57). This case began with a traffic stop for an improper lane change conducted by Bernalillo County Sherriff s Deputy Leonard Armijo. A canine search led to a further search that uncovered about $65, 020 in U.S. currency. Defendant is charged with Conspiracy to Commit Bulk Cash Smuggling in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371, Bulk Cash Smuggling in violation of 31 U.S.C. § 5332(a)(1) and (b) and Aiding and Abetting (18 U.S.C. § 2).

         I. Motion in Limine Seeking Pretrial Ruling on Excluding Hearsay Statements (Doc. 58)

         In this motion, the Government seeks to prohibit Defendant from introducing his prior statements or statements of co-conspirators known or unknown from Defendant's jail calls, because they are hearsay statements. The Government contends that these statements cannot be excluded as hearsay under Fed.R.Evid. 801(d)(2) because while that rule exempts statements made by a party-opponent as hearsay statements, the statements at issue here are self-serving statements which do not come under that rule. The Court finds that the relevant case law supports the Government's position, and Defendant offers no reason to veer from precedent. See United States v. Larsen, 175 F.App'x 236, 241 (10th Cir. 2006) (Rule 801(d)(2), which excludes from the definition of hearsay admissions by a party-opponent, does not apply because that rule does not permit self-serving, exculpatory statements made by a party and offered by that same party); United States v. Cunningham, 194 F.3d 1186, 1199 (11th Cir. 1999) (“[A] defendant cannot attempt to introduce an exculpatory statement made at the time of his arrest without subjecting himself to cross-examination”).

         Therefore, the Government's motion (Doc. 58) shall be GRANTED.

         II. Motion in Limine Seeking Pretrial Ruling on Admissibility of Extra-Judicial Statements and Audio-Recorded Evidence (Doc. 62) and Motion in Limine Seeking Ruling on Admissibility of Evidence (Doc. 57).

         The Court addresses these two motions together, since they dovetail into each other. In connection with these motions, the Government filed Notices of Intent to Offer Extra-Judicial Statements and Audio Recorded Evidence as part of the motions in limine.

         The Court recently entered a Memorandum Opinion and Order granting in part and denying in part the Government's request to admit an entire recorded jail call, namely jail call 10.91.1.21-c369e140a5b00151623a187172144fb. See Doc. 80. In that Order, the Court ruled that only statements made by Defendant from six conversations from that jail call would be admitted under both Fed.R.Evid. 801(d)(2)(A) as admissions of a party opponent and also under Fed.R.Evid. 803(3) to show Defendant's then-existing state of mind.

         Regarding Motion in Limine Docket 57, the Government requests that in addition to the statements made by Defendant in the six recorded jail conversations, that the Court also admit the “other half” of statements made by the individual on the other end of that call. At the March 6, 2017 hearing, the Government submitted five (5) exhibits, each exhibit consisting of a particular conversation between Defendant and two other individuals, “Manuel” and “Matias.” These exhibits are attached to this Memorandum Opinion and Order for ease of reference, and they represent the sum total of the jail call conversations which the Government seeks to admit.

         A. Exhibits 3 and 5

         In Motion in Limine Docket 62, the Government seeks to introduce a specific portion of Defendant's conversation from jail call 10.92.0.21-2f052a7a0a5c00156a2361b0c0a35860 at Counter 2.17. However, this portion of the jail call is also Gov't Ex. 5, which is attached hereto. For this reason, the Government's Motion in Limine Docket 62 will not be separately considered since it is subsumed in the discussion below.

         At the hearing, the Court addressed these conversations, which include statements made by Manuel and Matias, as well as Defendant. Exhibit 5 refers to Defendant's statement about taking “discovery” back to Mexico.” The Court ruled that the statements in Exhibit 5 will be excluded. The concept of discovery in the legal process is not commonly understood by the layperson and the probative value of this evidence would be substantially outweighed by the danger of juror confusion.

         In Exhibit 3, Defendant states that he was “guilty for the 75” (meaning $75, 000) and “not for the sixty-five, ” creating an inference, according to Defendant, that law enforcement officers took $10, 000. The Government seeks admission of this statement under Fed.R.Evid. 803(d)(2)(A) (statement by party opponent), and the Court finds the admission to be proper under this rule. Defense counsel wishes to introduce additional evidence for context. Doc. 57-2 at 13-14. This evidence consists of statements made by Defendant admitting that he stated that he was “guilty for the seventy-five” because another jail mate had admitted to having more drugs than were found on him and that his case had been dropped because his admission suggested that the officers had taken some of the drugs. The Government has no particular opposition to admission of this evidence, except to point out that it could be very confusing to the jury, and possibly undermine the jury's purpose by causing them to ...


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