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United States v. Martinez

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

September 10, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
JOSEPH MARTINEZ, Defendant.

          Marc Edwards Erlinda O. Johnson Attorney for Mr. Martinez.

          Norman Cairns Samuel A. Hurtado Assistant United States Attorneys

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          MARTHA VÁZQUEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on the United States' Motion to Admit Evidence Pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b) and as Res Gestae Evidence. [Doc. 60]. The Defendant filed a Response [Doc 61] and the Government filed a Reply [Doc 96]. Having considered the motions, relevant law, and being otherwise fully informed, the Court finds that the government's motion to admit evidence pursuant to Rule 404(b) will be GRANTED with regard to the observations of detectives who observed the controlled buys. Since the government represents in its Reply that it does not intend to introduce hearsay evidence, that it can prove that the Defendant engaged in controlled buys through the observations of detectives who were there, and that all testimony about the controlled buys will come from witnesses who will testify at trial, the government's motion is DENIED as moot with regard to any statements made to law enforcement by the Confidential Informant (CI) and any identifications made by the CI.

         BACKGROUND

         On July 19, 2019, the government filed a Motion In Limine for pre-trial ruling on the admissibility of Rule 404(b) and Res Gestae evidence. Doc. 60. The government seeks to introduce evidence at trial related to transactions between the CI and the defendant that took place in the weeks prior to the execution of a search warrant at the Defendant's house and the resulting recovery of two handguns, cocaine base, powder cocaine, digital scales, two boxes of baking soda, and two razor blades with white residue. See Id. at 1-6. The government argues that the controlled CI buys are admissible under Rule 404(b) of the Federal Rules of Evidence because they are being offered for the purpose of establishing the Defendant's intent, preparation, and plan for the cocaine base that was found in his home during the execution of the search warrant. Id. at 7-8. The government further argues that the probative value of the evidence outweighs the danger of unfair prejudice as it is unlikely to provoke an emotional response from the jury. Id. at 10. Finally, the government argues that the evidence is admissible as Res Gestae evidence because it provides the context for the alleged criminal act. Id. at 11-12.

         On July 23, 2019, the Defendant filed a “Response to Government's Motion to Introduce Evidence Pursuant to Fed.R.Evid. 404 (b) And Defendant's Motion In Limine 1 To Exclude Introduction of Alleged Controlled Buys.” Doc. 61. The Defendant argues that the Government “cannot show” that the alleged transactions with the CI are relevant under any of the enumerated 404(b) exceptions and that the evidence is unfairly prejudicial because the jury would likely jump to impermissible conclusions about the Defendant's character and/or propensity to commit crimes. Id. at 5-6. The Defendant also argues that introduction of the evidence would allow for the introduction of impermissible hearsay and may violate his right to confront witnesses under the Sixth Amendment. Id. at 6-8.

         On August 7, 2019, the government filed a Reply to the Defendant's Response. Doc. 96. In its Reply, the Government reiterated its purpose for introducing the evidence under Rule 404(b) - to establish intent - and its argument that such evidence is admissible as Res Gestae evidence. See generally id. The government also stated in its Reply that it does not intend to introduce hearsay evidence and instead intends to introduce the evidence of the controlled buys through the observations of detectives who were there. Id. at 10.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Evidence of Controlled Transactions is Admissible Under Rule 404(b)

         a. The Legal Standard

         Under Rule 404(b) of the Federal Rules of Evidence, “[e]vidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove the character of a person in order to show action in conformity therewith.” Fed.R.Evid. 404(b)(1). Such evidence may be admitted, however, to establish motive, intent, knowledge, preparation, plan, identity, and absence of mistake or accident. Fed.R.Evid. 404(b)(2); see also United States v. Zamora, 222 F.3d 756, 762 (10th Cir. 2000). The Tenth Circuit directs courts to conduct a four-part test to determine whether evidence is admissible under 404(b): (1) the evidence must be offered for a proper purpose; (2) the evidence must be relevant; (3) the trial court must make a Rule 403 determination of whether the probative value of the similar acts is substantially outweighed by its potential for unfair prejudice; and (4) pursuant to Rule 105 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, the trial court shall, upon request, instruct the jury that evidence of similar acts is to be considered only for the proper purpose for which it was admitted. United States v. Smalls, 752 F.3d 1227, 1237 (10th Cir. 2014) (citing United States v. Davis, 636 F.3d 1281, 1297 (10th Cir. 2011)). In order to ensure that the evidence is offered for a proper purpose, the Tenth Circuit requires the government to “articulate precisely the evidentiary hypothesis by which a fact of consequence may be inferred from the evidence of other acts.” United States v. Porter, 881 F.2d 878, 884 (10th Cir. 1989).

         b. Application of Tenth Circuit Four-Part Test for Admissibility of Evidence Under Rule 404(b)

         After applying the four-part test for Rule 404(b) evidence set forth by the Tenth Circuit, this Court finds that evidence of controlled ...


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