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United States v. Padilla

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

August 16, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHNNY LEE PADILLA, JR., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SPECIFIC DISCOVERY

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Specific Discovery, filed on July 7, 2017 (Doc. 15). Having considered the parties' written arguments and the applicable law, the Court finds that Defendant's motion is not well-taken and is, therefore, DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         The relevant background facts are set forth more fully in the parties briefing on Defendant's Motion to Suppress (Docs. 17 and 20). On March 29, 2017, state and federal law enforcement officers and officers from the New Mexico Probation and Parole Division (NMPPD) searched the residence of Defendant Johnny Lee Padilla, Jr., one of NMPPD's probationers. The search was triggered by a number of Defendant's reported probation violations.[1]

         After learning of Defendant's probation violations, an NMPPD officer decided to search Defendant's residence. During the search, officers located distribution quantities of heroin, a drug ledger, and cellular communications that the government contends are consistent with drug trafficking. The Indictment charges possession with intent to distribute heroin in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1)(A) and (b)(1)(C). The gist of Defendant's position is that the search of his residence was unlawful because the state and federal law enforcement officers were not acting under the direction of an NMPPD officer. As a result, Defendant claims he is entitled to certain discovery materials that help establish his defense.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         There is “no general constitutional right to discovery in a criminal case.” Weatherford v. Bursey, 429 U.S. 545, 559 (1977). “[T]he Brady rule, Rule 16 and the Jencks Act, exhaust the universe of discovery to which the defendant is entitled.” United States v. Presser, 844 F.2d 1275, 1285 (6th Cir. 1988); see also United States v. Griebel, 312 F. App'x 93, 95-96 (10th Cir. 2008) (noting the “[G]overnment's discovery obligations [] are defined by Rule 16, Brady, Giglio and the Jencks Act” and stating the defendant's request to expand his discovery rights beyond those three sources was unsupported by the law).

         Rule 16

         Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 16(a)(1) establishes guidance as to the nature and scope of pretrial discovery that the United States must provide. As to documents and objects, Rule 16(a)(1)(E) provides the following:

Upon a defendant's request, the government must permit the defendant to inspect and to copy or photograph books, papers, documents, data, photographs, tangible objects, buildings or places, or copies or portions of any of these items, if the item is within the government's possession, custody, or control and:
(i) the item is material to preparing the defense;
(ii) the government intends to use the item in its case-in-chief at trial; or (iii) the item was obtained from or belongs to the defendant.

Fed. R. Crim. P. 16(a)(1)(E).

         A defendant must make a prima facie showing of materiality before he is entitled to obtain requested discovery. See United States v. Mandel, 914 F.2d 1215, 1219 (9th Cir. 1990). “Neither a general description of the information sought nor conclusory allegations of materiality suffice; a defendant must present facts which would tend to show that the Government is in possession of information helpful to the defense.” Id. The term “defense” means an argument in response to the prosecution's case-in-chief, i.e., an argument that refutes the government's claims that the defendant committed the crime charged. See United States v. Armstrong, 517 U.S. 456, 462 (1996). To show materiality, the evidence must bear some abstract logical relationship to the issues in the case such that pretrial disclosure would enable the defendant significantly to alter the quantum of proof in his favor. United States v. Lloyd, 992 F.2d 348, 350-51 (D.C. Cir. 1993). This materiality requirement is not a heavy burden; rather, evidence is material as long as there is a strong indication that the evidence “will play an important role in uncovering admissible evidence, aiding witness preparation, corroborating testimony, or assisting impeachment or rebuttal.” Id. at 351 (internal quotations omitted). Nevertheless, ordering the production by the government of discovery without any preliminary showing of materiality is inconsistent with Rule 16. Mandel, 914 F.2d at 1219.

         Brady ...


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