United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MATTER is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for New
Trial filed on March 26, 2018. (Doc. 79). The United States
responded on April 23, 2018, and Defendant replied on May 9,
2018. (Docs. 88 and 90). The Court held an evidentiary
hearing on May 11, 2018. Having considered the arguments of
counsel, the applicable law and the evidence in the record,
the Court denies the Motion.
November 14, 2016, the United States filed a criminal
complaint against Defendant alleging violations of 21 U.S.C.
§ 841(a)(1), possession with intent to distribute
cocaine, and 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). (Doc. 1). On July 3,
2017, Defendant moved to suppress statements he made to
agents on the date of his arrest, November 11, 2016.
Specifically, he argued those statements were coerced by
agents. (Doc. 28). On July 26, 2017, the Court held a hearing
on the motion to suppress. (Doc. 60). On July 27, 2018, the
Court entered an order denying the motion. (Doc. 53). In
doing so, the Court found the agents' testimony credible.
The parties proceeded to trial and on August 2, 2017,
Defendant was found guilty of possession with intent to
distribute cocaine. (Doc. 87) at 57.
Patrol Agent Eduardo Mora testified at both the suppression
hearing and trial. His testimony at both proceedings largely
was the same in substance. Compare (Doc. 60)
with (Doc. 86). After Defendant's trial, Agent
Mora testified in the unrelated Lyons trial. During
his examinations in that trial, it was revealed that he
omitted information in two reports, a Border Patrol I-44
investigation report and an internal so-called
“use-of-force memorandum, ” which he submitted to
his supervisor after Lyons' arrest. The omitted
information specifically related to the use of force by
another Border Patrol Agent, Jesus Miranda's force, i.e.,
a “chokehold” Miranda applied to Lyons during
Lyons' arrest. (Doc. 79) at 2-3, ¶¶ 8-10;
(Docs. 79-1, 79-2, and 79-3). That trial included allegations
that Lyons assaulted one or both Border Patrol Agents on
April 6, 2017. Agent Mora testified that he purposely omitted
the “chokehold” information from his report and
that he instructed Agent Miranda to also omit that
information from Miranda's report. (Doc. 79) at 3, ¶
12; (Doc. 88-1) at 3. Agent Mora testified that while agency
policy required this information be reported, it did not
require the report be in writing, but that he reported this
to his supervisor orally. (Doc. 88-1) at 7. On October 11,
2017, the United States informed counsel for Defendant
Ravenell of Agent Mora's testimony in the Lyons
trial. (Doc. 79-3).
has brought this Motion arguing that Agent Mora's
testimony in the Lyons trial is newly discovered
impeachment evidence warranting a new trial.
law governing Brady claims is well-established: Due
process requires a new trial if the government withholds
evidence that is favorable to the defendant and material to
guilt or punishment.” United States v. Reese,
745 F.3d 1075, 1083 (10th Cir. 2014) (citing Smith v.
Cain, __U.S.__, 132 S.Ct. 627, 630 (2012)). “A
defendant who seeks a new trial based on an alleged
Brady violation must show by a preponderance of the
evidence that ‘(1) the prosecution suppressed evidence,
(2) the evidence was favorable to the defendant, and (3) the
evidence was material.'” United States v.
Ford, 550 F.3d 975, 981 (10th Cir. 2008) (quoting
United States v. Velarde, 485 F.3d 553, 558 (10th
Cir. 2007)). The United States does not contend that the
evidence was not suppressed. Thus, the Court considers the
second and third elements.
second element of a Brady claim requires proof the
evidence in question was exculpatory, or favorable, to the
defendant.” Smith v. Sec'y of N.M. Dept. of
Corr., 50 F.3d 801, 825 (10th Cir 1995). “In this
regard, it is worth noting that  because impeachment is
integral to a defendant's constitutional right to
cross-examination, there exists no pat distinction between
impeachment and exculpatory evidence under
Brady.” Id. (internal quotation marks
omitted). Furthermore, “[e]vidence need only have
‘some weight' or ‘tendency' to be
favorable to the defendant.” United States v.
Ballard, 885 F.3d 500, 504 (7th Cir. 2018) (quoting
Kyles v. Whitley, 514 U.S. 419, 451 (1995)); see
also Comstock v. Humphries, 786 F.3d 701, 708 (9th Cir.
2015) (“whether evidence is favorable is a question of
substance, not degree, and evidence that has any affirmative,
evidentiary support for the defendant's case or any
impeachment value is, by definition, favorable”).
Court finds the evidence that Agent Mora intentionally
omitted information from his reports in the Lyons
case and that he instructed a fellow agent to do the same was
at least minimally favorable to Defendant. Defendant
Ravenell's counsel, just as Lyons' counsel did, could
have cross examined Agent Mora with this evidence as to
Mora's character under Fed.R.Evid. 608(b)(1). The
omissions have weight or tendency to have been favorable to
Defendant Ravenell. Accordingly, the Court concludes
Defendant meets the second element for a new trial.
the third element, “[e]vidence is material if
there is a reasonable probability that the result of the
proceeding would have been different had the evidence been
disclosed.” Reese, 745 F.3d at 1083 (citing
Cain, 132 S.Ct. at 630). “A reasonable
probability means the ‘likelihood of a different
result is great enough to undermine confidence in the
outcome.'” Id. (quoting Cain, 132
S.Ct. at 630). “Put another way, we ask whether the
absence of the withheld evidence at trial ‘shakes our
confidence in the guilty verdict.'” Id.
(quoting United States v. Cooper, 654 F.3d 1104,
1120 (10th Cir. 2011)). The Court “determine[s]
materiality after reviewing the record as a whole.”
Id. at 1084 (citation omitted). Viewing the record
in this case as a whole and the pertinent record in
Lyons, the Court finds that Agent Mora's
omissions were not material.
impeachment evidence is material if “the witness being
impeached was absolutely critical to the government's
case.” Cooper, 654 F.3d at 1123. Agent
Mora's testimony was probative as to the elements of the
offense. However, as to the key element of whether Defendant
Ravenell knowingly possessed the cocaine with the intent to
distribute it, Mora's testimony was not critical. Rather,
the critical evidence in the government's case was the
testimony of DEA Task Force Agents Christopher Myers and
Andrew Hernandez, and DEA Special Agent Emerald Nguyen,
relating directly to Mr. Ravenell's admission.
the evidence included corroborating testimony from all three
DEA agents that Defendant admitted to purchasing cocaine in
El Paso in order to sell it in Colorado. Significantly, all
three agents corroborated that Defendant Ravenell's
admission was voluntary, contrary to the defense theory of
coercion. Even in the absence of evidence that Agent Mora
knowingly omitted information in his reports in the
Lyons case, there was sufficiently strong evidence
to sustain the Court's confidence in the guilty verdict.
Reese, 745 F.3d at 1084 n.6 (“no
Brady violation occurred because there was
sufficiently strong evidence on the counts of
conviction to sustain our confidence in the jury's
verdict despite the absence of the impeachment evidence at
trial.”). Therefore, having viewed the record as a
whole, the Court concludes Defendant does not meet the third
element for a new trial. Accordingly, the motion for a new
trial is denied.