United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MATTER comes before the Court on Defendant Aaron
Mercado-Gracia's Motion to Compel Discovery (ECF No.
114). The Court, having considered the motion, briefs,
arguments, and relevant law, concludes that the motion to
compel should be denied.
March 25, 2016, New Mexico State Police (“NMSP”)
Officer Ronald Wood, stopped Defendant Mercado-Gracia for
speeding. Mem. Op. and Order 3, ECF No. 107. In the course of
the detention, Officer Wood deployed his drug detection dog
on the exterior of the vehicle, which alerted to the vehicle,
resulting in Officer Wood searching the interior of the
vehicle and discovering heroin and a handgun therein.
Id. at 3-12. The United States subsequently charged
Defendant in a two-count Indictment (ECF No. 12) for
Possession with Intent to Distribute 1 Kilogram and More of
Heroin under 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(A),
and Using and Carrying a Firearm During and in Relation to a
Drug Trafficking Crime and Possessing a Firearm in
Furtherance of Such Crime under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c).
asserts that it is “apparent” Officer Wood may
have obtained information regarding Mr. Mercado-Gracia before
he seized him from NSA's secret surveillance of
electronic communications, funneled to federal law
enforcement agents. As support for this assertion, Defendant
cites a 2013 newspaper article regarding the alleged
secretive program and efforts agents used to cover up the
program to investigate Americans. The only evidence Defendant
provides to support a link to this case is that Officer
Wood's dash camera showed three vehicles driving at the
same high speed, but he only pulled over Mr. Mercado-Gracia.
Defendant requests the production of (1) any source of
information regarding any prior investigation of Mr.
Mercado-Gracia conducted before the date of Mr.
Mercado-Gracia's arrest; and (2) whether Officer Wood had
any prior knowledge of Mr. Mercado-Gracia or of someone who
otherwise met his description before Mr. Mercado-Gracia's
arrest. Defendant asserts entitlement to the information
under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 16 and Brady v.
Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). The United States asserts
that it inquired of Officer Wood regarding Defendant's
request and he stated he had no background information about
Defendant prior to the stop. United States' Resp. 2, ECF
No. 117. Defendant did not file a reply.
Rule of Criminal Procedure 16(a)(1)(E) provides that the
government must disclose to the defendant, upon his request,
papers and documents, “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). The term
“defense” means a defendant's 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. United States v.
Armstrong, 517 U.S. 456, 462 (1996).
defendant must make a prima facie showing of materiality
before he is entitled to obtain Rule 16 discovery. 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. To show materiality under Rule
16(a)(1)(E), the evidence must “play an important role
in uncovering admissible evidence, aiding witness
preparation, corroborating testimony, or assisting
impeachment or rebuttal.” United States v.
Lloyd, 992 F.2d 348, 351 (D.C. Cir. 1993). This
materiality requirement is not a heavy burden; rather,
evidence is material as long as there is a strong indication
it would enable the defendant to significantly alter the
quantum of proof in his favor. United States v.
Graham, 83 F.3d 1466, 1474 (D.C. Cir. 1996).
Supreme Court held in Brady “that the
suppression by the prosecution of evidence favorable to an
accused upon request violates due process where the evidence
is material either to guilt or to punishment, irrespective of
the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution.”
Brady, 373 U.S. at 87. To establish a Brady
violation, the defendant must show that (1) the prosecution
suppressed evidence; (2) the evidence was favorable to the
accused; and (3) the evidence was material to the defense.
United States v. Beers, 189 F.3d 1297, 1303 (10th
Cir. 1999). Brady only requires disclosure of
information in the government's possession or of which it
has knowledge, whether actual or constructive. Id.
at 1304. Impeachment evidence affecting a witness's
credibility falls under Brady when the reliability
of a given witness may be determinative of a defendant's
guilt or innocence. Giglio v. United States, 405
U.S. 150, 154 (1972).
Court held a hearing on Defendant's motion to suppress
during which Officer Wood testified regarding the reasons for
the stop of Defendant's vehicle. Officer Wood did not
testify that he had prior knowledge concerning Mr.
Mercado-Gracia or any suspect meeting his description that
led him to stop Defendant's car. According to the
Government, after receiving defense counsel's request for
the information contained in the motion to compel, counsel
for the Government specifically asked Officer Wood if he had
any such information, and he denied having any background
information about Defendant prior to the stop. The record
thus indicates that the requested evidence is not in the
possession of the Government.
this Court's standing discovery order already requires
the disclosure of Brady and Giglio
material, and thus, a separate order compelling the
disclosure of any evidence subject to Brady is not
necessary. The Government should liberally construe its
Brady and Giglio obligations when viewing
the exculpatory and impeachment value of material in its
possession. See United States v. Johnson, 581 F.3d
320, 331 (6th Cir. 2009) (explaining that the duty to
disclose Brady material “extends to
impeachment evidence, but only if the evidence is favorable
to the accused in the sense that it would allow him to
impeach government witnesses”).
IS THEREFORE ORDERED that Defendant's Motion to
Compel Discovery ...