Law School Case Brief
United States v. Duenas - 691 F.3d 1070 (9th Cir. 2012)
"Former testimony" is not hearsay if a declarant is unavailable. "Former testimony" is testimony that: (A) was given as a witness at a trial, hearing, or lawful deposition, whether given during the current proceeding or a different one; and (B) is now offered against a party who had—or, in a civil case, whose predecessor in interest had—an opportunity and similar motive to develop it by direct, cross-, or redirect examination.
Defendants Raymond and Lourdes Duenas lived on an isolated jungle property in Dededo, Guam. On April 19, 2007, Guam Police Department's (GPD) SWAT team, in coordination with federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agents executed a search warrant at the Duenases' residence for evidence of narcotics trafficking. Defendants were asleep when the officers entered the residence. Officers seized approximately 82 grams of methamphetamine. Meanwhile, Raymond and Lourdes were arrested and were taken to the precinct. Thereafter, defendants each gave written and oral statements regarding the drugs and the stolen property. Raymond was thereafter taken to a hospital after he complained of injury. Upon his return to the precinct, special agents attempted to interview Raymond, after advising the latter of his Miranda rights. Thereafter, both defendants were charged with several crimes involving dangerous drugs. The district court denied the Duenases’ joint motion to suppress the physical evidence seized from the property. Raymond also moved to suppress his statements. After the suppression hearing and before trial, the officer who interviewed Raymond died. Over Raymond’s hearsay objection, the district court concluded that the deceased officer’s testimony was "former testimony" under Fed. R. Evid. 804(b)(1); the testimony was allowed to be read to the jury. The district court then entered convictions against Raymond and Lourdes for conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute, use of a firearm during a drug crime, and possession of stolen firearms. The jury convicted Lourdes of both conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute. Defendants appealed their convictions.
- Was the admission of the deceased officer's former testimony proper?
- Was there enough evidence to convict Lourdes of the crime charged?
On appeal, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the district court abused its discretion by admitting the former testimony of a then-deceased officer under Fed. R. Evid. 804(b)(1) because it incorrectly concluded that defense counsel had a similar motive to cross-examine the officer when it questioned him at the suppression hearing as it would have had at the trial. According to the Court, Raymond’s motive at the suppression hearing was solely to demonstrate that his statements were involuntary and obtained in violation of Miranda, and thus, inadmissible. On the other hand, Raymond’s motive for cross-examining the officer at trial, to challenge the substance of the statements as opposed to the circumstances in which they were given, was substantially dissimilar. As such, because Raymond’s confession was admitted through the officer's former testimony, the Court concluded that Raymond’s conviction had to be reversed. As to the second issue, the Court ruled that a rational trier of fact could have found beyond a reasonable doubt that Lourdes constructively possessed and intended to distribute at least the 74 grams of methamphetamine found in the safe in her bedroom.
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