United States v. Hieng

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Evidence
  • Date Filed: 05-11-2012
  • Case #: 09-10401
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Judge Wallace for the Court; Circuit Judge Bybee; Concurrence by Circuit Judge Berzon
  • Full Text Opinion

A defendant’s failure to object to the admission of statements made during a proffer meeting “may be reasonably interpreted as indicating that the defendant previously waived his rights under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(f) and Federal Rule of Evidence 410,” and a defendant has no right to confront an interpreter where the interpreted statement “may be fairly attributed directly to the [original] speaker.”

Orm Hieng appealed his conviction and sentence for manufacturing and cultivating more than 1,000 marijuana plants. First, Hieng argued that the statements he made during a proffer meeting were inadmissible despite Hieng’s failure to object, because the trial judge should have inquired, sua sponte, as to whether Hieng waived his rights under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(f) and Federal Rule of Evidence 410. The Court found that the trial judge did not commit plain error, because the district court has no such duty to make a sua sponte inquiry. Failure to object implies that Hieng agreed to the admission of statements made during the proffer meeting. Second, the Court ruled that Hieng had no right to confront his interpreter, because the interpreter’s statements constitute the defendant’s statements unless the defendant objects that the interpretation is incorrect, which Hieng failed to do at trial. Third, although the district court incorrectly applied the hearsay rule to testimony regarding the quantity of marijuana plants, the Court found through its own application of hearsay exceptions that the district court did not commit reversible error. The total plant count offered by a detective at trial was based on other detectives’ out-of-court statements. However, the disputed testimony was founded on a recorded recollection and the other detectives’ reports qualified as present sense impressions. Fourth, the Court rejected Hieng’s contention that he should not receive the statutory minimum on the basis that the safety valve of 18 U.S.C. § 3553(f) should apply. The Court found sufficient evidence showing that Hieng failed to disclose his full involvement in the crime. Lastly, because Hieng failed to show that the district court committed multiple errors, the Court rejected Hieng’s argument that the district court’s errors cumulatively resulted in an unfair trial. AFFIRMED.

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