United States v. Cazares

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 05-14-2015
  • Case #: 06-50677
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Senior District Judge Piersol for the Court; Circuit Judges Pregerson and Fletcher
  • Full Text Opinion

District court rulings in criminal proceedings are likely to be upheld if the district court’s actions do not rise above the level of harmless error.

Fernando Cazares, Gilbert Saldana, Alejandro Martinez, and Porfirio Avila (collectively, the “Defendants”) were convicted of violating 18 U.S.C. § 241, and all but Avila were convicted of violating 18 U.S.C. §§ 245(b)(2)(B) and (2)(a), and 18 U.S.C. §§ 924(c)(1)(A)(iii), (j)(1) and (2)(a). The Defendants appealed, alleging multiple errors, including violations of due process rights, right to a public trial, rights under the Confrontation Clause, and evidentiary errors. Saldana also appealed the district court’s dismissal of his motion to suppress statements he made without being Mirandized. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit reviewed all of the issues presented by the Defendants. The panel held that the Defendants’ due process rights were not violated by instances such as being shackled during trial and not attending voir dire. The panel found that the admission of hearsay evidence was not reversible error under the doctrine of forfeiture for wrongdoing, and that the officer’s expert testimony was not plain error under the Confrontation Clause. The panel also determined that the Defendants’ rights to cross-examination and confrontation were not violated by limiting the cross-examination because very little evidence was excluded, and the jury had sufficient evidence to make its witness credibility assessments. The panel also held that Saldana was never in custody, and therefore did not require a Miranda warning. The panel concluded that the overall impact of the errors did not violate the Defendants’ due process rights to a fair trial, and thus affirmed the district court’s convictions. AFFIRMED.

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