United States v. Gomez

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 08-06-2013
  • Case #: 12–50018
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Graber for the Court; Circuit Judge Rawlinson; Dissent by Circuit Judge Watford
  • Full Text Opinion

Admitting a defendant’s post-arrest statement does not violate Miranda v. Arizona where the statement was voluntary and inconsistent with the defendant’s testimony and where the prosecution uses the statement only for impeachment purposes.

Cesar Gomez was attempting to cross the United States-Mexico border when border officials discovered methamphetamine hidden in his gas tank. After officials informed Gomez of his Miranda rights, they asked if Gomez wanted to talk, but he said he couldn't say anything more because his family would be killed if he did; Gomez then remained silent. At trial, Gomez claimed ignorance regarding the methamphetamine, and the prosecution questioned him about his statement after being read his rights regarding his fear for his family. Afterwards, the prosecution’s expert witness gave testimony stating that based on interviews he conducted in other investigations, drug organizations don’t use unknowing couriers. Finally, in the prosecutor’s closing argument, the prosecutor stated that if the evidence presented was beyond a reasonable doubt, then the jury had a duty to find Gomez guilty. Gomez was convicted, and he appealed. The Ninth Circuit examined three issues. First, the panel held that Gomez’s post-Miranda statement about his fear for his family was properly admitted because it was used to impeach Gomez’s reason for declining to talk, not for his failure to talk to the officials. Additionally, the panel said that the statement was voluntary and inconsistent with his testimony at trial. Second, the prosecution’s expert witness testimony was admissible because it did not improperly state opinion on ultimate issue, nor was it unfairly prejudicial. Further, the expert’s statement about past interviews did not violate Gomez’s Confrontation Clause rights because the interviews were part of the expert witness’s experience and expertise. Finally, the prosecutor’s closing argument was not improper because the prosecutor’s statement that if the government met the burden of proof then the jury must find Gomez guilty was not the same as saying that the jury had a duty to find Gomez guilty. AFFIRMED.

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