from the United States District Court for the District of New
Mexico (D.C. No. 1:16-CR-01099-MV-1)
Justine Fox-Young, Albuquerque, New Mexico (Robert J.
Gorence, Gorence & Oliveros, Albuquerque, New Mexico,
with her on the briefs), for Defendant-Appellant.
A. Ong, Assistant United States Attorney (James D. Tierney,
Acting United States Attorney, with her on the brief), Las
Cruces, New Mexico, for Plaintiff-Appellee.
MATHESON, KELLY, and BACHARACH, Circuit Judges.
BACHARACH, CIRCUIT JUDGE
Cornelia Tapaha was convicted of assault for hitting her
boyfriend, Mr. Myron Yazzie, with her car. She appeals this
conviction, arguing that the district court
• violated her constitutional right to present a defense
by excluding certain testimony from three witnesses: (1) Ms.
Tamara Tapaha, Cornelia's sister; (2) Mr. Yazzie; and (3)
• violated the Confrontation Clause by excluding certain
testimony by Mr. Yazzie, and
• erred in refusing to admit redacted portions of an
interview with a law-enforcement officer.
We conclude that
• exclusion of the testimony did not deprive Cornelia of
her right to present a defense,
• exclusion of certain testimony by Mr. Yazzie did not
violate the Confrontation Clause, and
• the district court did not err in excluding the
redacted interview statements.
analyze Cornelia's appellate arguments, we begin with the
acts underlying the conviction and consider how they related
to the evidence that was excluded.
Cornelia runs her car into Mr. Yazzie,
allegedly in self-defense.
acts underlying the conviction are largely undisputed.
Cornelia and Mr. Yazzie picked up Tamara, and the three of
them drank together in the car. As Mr. Yazzie drove, he grew
increasingly agitated by Cornelia's need to make frequent
stops so that she could urinate.
they arrived at a gas station, Cornelia went inside and Mr.
Yazzie retrieved a large wrench and put it in the back seat.
On returning to the car, Cornelia learned about the wrench;
she later confronted Mr. Yazzie about what he was planning to
do with it. Mr. Yazzie responded by punching Cornelia in the
face, and the two continued to bicker.
Mr. Yazzie exited the car while yelling at Cornelia. Cornelia
followed Mr. Yazzie with the car and "nicked" him
once. Appellant's App'x, vol. 2 at 792. At that
point, Mr. Yazzie started pounding on the hood and yelling.
He then moved away,  and Cornelia struck him again with the
district court, Cornelia asserted self-defense, alleging that
she had been scared because of years of abuse by Mr. Yazzie.
To support this defense, Cornelia sought to present evidence
of Mr. Yazzie's past acts of violence.
district court allowed Cornelia, Tamara, and Mr. Yazzie to
testify about the day of the incident and three prior
instances of Mr. Yazzie's violence toward Cornelia. But
the court excluded testimony about other acts of violence.
Cornelia tells a police
officer about past acts of violence, but the court
admits only a redacted version of the statements.
hitting Mr. Yazzie with her car, Cornelia spoke to a police
officer (Mr. Jefferson Joe). At trial, Officer Joe testified
about some of Cornelia's statements. Cornelia sought
introduction of other statements that she had made to Officer
Joe, but the district court excluded them.
Constitutional Right to Present a Defense
claiming the denial of a constitutional right to present a
defense, Cornelia relies on the exclusion of testimony by
herself, Tamara, and Mr. Yazzie.
Standard of Review
this claim, we apply
. the abuse-of-discretion standard to the
district court's application of the Federal Rules of
. de novo review to the constitutionality of
the evidentiary rulings. See United States v.
Dowlin, 408 F.3d 647, 659 (10th Cir. 2005).
The Admitted Testimony
apply this standard, we must consider how the excluded
testimony related to the evidence introduced at trial.
The Day of the Incident
district court allowed extensive testimony by Cornelia and
Tamara about the day of the incident. The sisters described
the events on the day in question, which included four
1. The sisters feared what Mr. Yazzie might do with the
wrench after retrieving it.
2. After leaving the gas station, Cornelia and Mr. Yazzie
argued and Mr. Yazzie seemed "jealous about
something." Tamara testified that Mr. Yazzie had
frequently gotten jealous and that when he did, he would get
mad at Cornelia. Appellant's App'x, vol. 2 at 615.
3. Mr. Yazzie tried to hit Cornelia multiple times and landed
a blow to her face while she was driving, causing her to
4. After they pulled over, Tamara left the car and started
walking away. Cornelia testified that at that point, Mr.
Yazzie hit her again and threatened her, saying that he
wished she was dead and that he would "make [going to
jail] worth it this time." Id. at 788.
testifying about these facts, Cornelia stated that she had
hit Mr. Yazzie with the car to protect herself, explaining
that she wanted to scare him because he would otherwise have
continued to hurt her if he had reentered the car.
Id. at 794.
Mr. Yazzie's Prior Acts of Violence
district court also admitted testimony from the three
witnesses about Mr. Yazzie's prior violence toward
Cornelia. For example, Cornelia testified that Mr. Yazzie
would "usually" hit her with a closed fist and that
his blows would "always [be] on the face."
Id. at 757. Mr. Yazzie added that he had hit Cornelia
when they were living together and that he had gone to jail
as a result.
witnesses also testified about three prior incidents.
both sisters testified that on Halloween a few years earlier,
â¢ Tamara, Cornelia, and Mr. Yazzie had been drinking in a
â¢ Mr. Yazzie had gotten drunk, stopped the car, and argued
with Cornelia; and
â¢ Mr. Yazzie then hit Cornelia in the face and pushed her
into oncoming traffic.
Cornelia testified about a past incident in which Mr. Yazzie
had punched her in the face and stabbed her brother in the
chest with a knife. Mr. Yazzie corroborated this incident,
though he claimed that he had only "poked"
Cornelia's brother with the knife. Id. at 711.
Cornelia testified about another incident in which Mr. Yazzie
had hit her twice in the face with his fist.
The Excluded Testimony
unsuccessfully tried to present additional testimony from the
three witnesses. That testimony would have encompassed both
the day of the incident and Mr. Yazzie's prior acts of
The Day ...