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United States v. Santiago

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

October 3, 1994, Argued, Submitted, Pasadena, California ; January 24, 1995, Filed

No. 93-50375

Opinion

 [*887]  OPINION

D.W. NELSON, Circuit Judge:

Richard Santiago appeals his conviction for the first degree murder of Johnny Estrada, a fellow inmate at the United States Penitentiary at Lompoc, California ("USP-Lompoc"). Santiago argues that the district court erred in admitting evidence relating to the Mexican Mafia, a prison gang at USP-Lompoc, because it should have been excluded under Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b) and because it violated his equal protection rights. He also asserts that the prosecution improperly bolstered witness testimony, that the government's closing argument [**2]  constituted prosecutorial misconduct, and that the court improperly denied his request for discovery of inmate witnesses' prison records.  [*888]  We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and we affirm.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In the early afternoon of January 25, 1989, Johnny Estrada, an inmate at USP-Lompoc, was stabbed to death in the prison kitchen bathroom. Another inmate had seen Santiago, on duty as a kitchen worker, enter the bathroom shortly after Estrada and emerge soon thereafter. After dropping a metal object into a sink and washing a large item of clothing, Santiago returned to his cellblock.

In the ensuing investigation, prison staff found a knife in the kitchen sink and a damp sweatshirt stained with human blood near the kitchen door. Guards discovered blood-stained garments, consistent with Santiago's clothing, in a trash can one level above Santiago's cell and in the shower in his cell range. During examinations of inmates after the murder, a guard noticed a fresh cut on Santiago's right hand. Laboratory tests revealed that some of the blood on the clothing matched Santiago's blood type, and some matched that of Estrada.  [**3]  In addition, DNA tests on the clothing established that Santiago was among those (only two percent of the population) whose blood was consistent with the blood on the clothing.

At trial in January 1993, inmate Martin Ybarra testified that two weeks prior to the murder, Santiago had told him that "there is going to be a body." Ybarra also stated that on the morning of the murder, in accordance with instructions from another inmate, he delivered two metal knives from the prison paintshop to the kitchen area for use by Santiago. Shortly before the murder, Ybarra saw another inmate deliver one of these knives to Santiago.

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46 F.3d 885 *; 1995 U.S. App. LEXIS 1277 **; 95 Cal. Daily Op. Service 598; 95 Daily Journal DAR 1084

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. RICHARD SANTIAGO, a/k/a "CHUCO", Defendant-Appellant.

Subsequent History:  [**1]  Certiorari Denied June 26, 1995, Reported at: 1995 U.S. LEXIS 4347.

Prior History: Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California. D.C. No. CR-92-66-JGD. John G. Davies, District Judge, Presiding.

CORE TERMS

prison, inmate, files, gang, murder, district court, motive, witnesses, kill, discovery, inmate witness, gang-related, bolstering, documents, argues, tactic, cases, possession and control, defense counsel, present case, misconduct, blood, gang member, prison gang, preparation, clothing, comments, kitchen, records, linked

Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Criminal Process, Assistance of Counsel, Criminal Law & Procedure, Counsel, Right to Counsel, General Overview, Standards of Review, Abuse of Discretion, Plain Error, Definition of Plain Error, Discovery by Defendant, Tangible Objects