United States v. Ramos-Atondo

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 10-11-2013
  • Case #: 12-50208, 12-50211, 12-50212, 12-50214
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Gould for the Court; Circuit Judge Rawlinson; District Judge Huck
  • Full Text Opinion

A district court does not abuse its discretion when it presents the jury with deliberate ignorance instructions when the factual bases of such an instruction are present.

After border patrol agents discovered 740 pounds of smuggled marijuana on an abandoned boat, Sergio Ramos-Atondo, Alberto Corona-Vidal, Jeancarlo Martinez, and Victor Ramos (“Defendants”) were convicted for conspiring to import marijuana. At trial, the district court gave a deliberate ignorance instruction to the jury. Defendants argued that the district court abused its discretion because the government presented an actual knowledge theory rather than presenting or even mentioning a deliberate ignorance theory. The Ninth Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by providing such an instruction because a district court may give deliberate ignorance instructions if it determines that the jury could rationally find deliberate ignorance even if the government has presented evidence of actual knowledge. The panel followed by explaining that because Defendants were disputing actual knowledge, the government was entitled to instructions that supported rational inferences the jury might draw from the evidence the government had presented. The panel held that the Defendants showed deliberate ignorance because they were aware of the high probability that the boat had a controlled substance rather than illegal aliens, and they engaged in deliberate acts to avoid learning the truth of what was in the boat. The panel also held that the Ramos’s Fed. R. Crim. Pro. Rule 29 motion was correctly denied because a rational jury could believe Gallegos’s testimony since it in line with that of the border patrol agent’s testimony, and Ramos knew or was deliberately ignorant that they were importing marijuana. Finally, the panel held that because the evidence of prior smuggling of aliens had probative value, unfair prejudice would not warrant exclusion under Fed. R. Ev. Rule 403, and the district court was careful with the limiting instructions to the jury. AFFIRMED.

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