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United States v. Garcia-Patino

United States District Court, D. Kansas

April 23, 2019



          Daniel D. Crabtree United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the court on two Motions to Sever: one by defendant Eduardo Garcia-Patino (Doc. 458) and one by defendant Juan Carlos Quinonez-Leon (Doc. 459). Their motions ask the court to sever the charges against each defendant for separate trials and object to the continued trial date in this case. The two defendants filed their motions about two weeks before the court continued the trial date in this case, on defendant Luis Alberto Quintero-Jimenez's Motion (Doc. 462), until October 22, 2019. See Doc. 481 at 2. For reasons explained below, the court denies Mr. Garcia-Patino and Mr. Quinonez-Leon's motions.

         I. Background

         Mr. Garcia-Patino and Mr. Quinonez-Leon both are charged, with 19 co-defendants, with a conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of methamphetamine. See Doc. 98 at 2-3. Also, the government has charged Mr. Garcia-Patino with possessing with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of methamphetamine. See Id. at 10. On March 21, 2019, the court held a hearing on Mr. Garcia-Patino and Mr. Quinonez-Leon's Motions to Sever (Docs. 458 & 459), as well as Mr. Quintero-Jimenez's Motion to Extend Motions Deadlines and Trial Date (Doc. 462). See Doc. 481. After hearing from counsel, the court found that the ends of justice served by allowing the defendants the additional time requested outweighed the best interest of the public and the defendants in a speedy trial. Specifically, the court noted that Mr. Quintero-Jimenez's appointed counsel had entered the case on January 30, 2019, and thus needed more time to understand and evaluate this complex case. And, the court concluded that defendants will require time to assess the court's rulings on any pretrial motions. The court thus granted Mr. Quintero-Jimenez's motion and continued the trial date in this case until October 22, 2019. During the hearing, the court also excluded the time between March 21, 2019, and October 22, 2019, from the speedy trial clocks for all but two of the co-defendants. But, the court explained that this excludable period does not apply automatically to Mr. Garcia-Patino and Mr. Quinonez-Leon, who have objected to the continuance granted to their co-defendants. The court thus addresses the reasonableness of applying this seven-month excludable period to Mr. Garcia-Patino and Mr. Quinonez-Leon in this Order.

         II. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 8(b) allows the government to charge two or more defendants in a single indictment if the defendants “are alleged to have participated in the same act or transaction, or in the same series of acts or transactions, constituting an offense or offenses.” The Tenth Circuit “construe[s] Rule 8 broadly to allow liberal joinder to enhance the efficiency of the judicial system.” United States v. Johnson, 130 F.3d 1420, 1427 (10th Cir. 1997) (citing United States v. Janus Indus., 48 F.3d 1548, 1557 (10th Cir. 1995)). But, Rule 8(b)'s joinder guidelines are subject to the limitations imposed by Rule 14(a), which provide, as relevant here: “If the joinder of . . . defendants . . . in an indictment . . . appears to prejudice a defendant . . . the court may sever the defendants' trials.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 14(a).

         When deciding a motion to sever, the court must weigh any prejudice to the defendant “against the important considerations of economy and expedition in judicial administration.” United States v. Mabry, 809 F.2d 671, 681 (10th Cir. 1987), overruled on other grounds by Mathews v. United States, 485 U.S. 58 (1988). To carry the “‘heavy burden'” required to prevail on a severance motion, a “‘defendant must demonstrate actual prejudice [from the failure to sever].'” United States v. Lopez, 100 F.3d 113, 119 (10th Cir. 1996) (quoting United States v. Wacker, 72 F.3d 1453, 1468 (10th Cir. 1995)). And, “Rule 14 leaves the determination of risk of prejudice and any remedy for such prejudice to the sound discretion” of district courts. United States v. Rodriguez-Aguirre, 108 F.3d 1228, 1234 (10th Cir. 1997) (citing Zafiro v. United States, 506 U.S. 534, 541 (1993)).

         III. Analysis

         Mr. Garcia-Patino and Mr. Quinonez-Leon make similar arguments in their Motions to Sever. In the following sections, the court identifies the governing authorities and applies them to both defendants' arguments.

         A. Evidentiary Arguments

         Mr. Garcia-Patino and Mr. Quinonez-Leon assert that the government will offer evidence that is admissible against their co-defendants only, and that the jury will be unable to set aside that evidence when evaluating the specific charges against Mr. Garcia-Patino and Mr. Quinonez-Leon. The court discusses these arguments in the following three sections.

         1. Governing case authority

         The Tenth Circuit explicitly has held that “‘[n]either a mere allegation that [a] defendant would have a better chance of acquittal in a separate trial, nor a complaint of the “spillover effect” from the evidence . . . against a co-defendant . . . is sufficient to warrant severance.'” United States v. Powell, 982 F.2d 1422, 1432 (10th Cir. 1992) (quoting United States v. Hack, 782 F.2d 862, 870 (10th Cir. 1986)). And, “when sufficient evidence is presented to connect the defendant to the conspiracy charged, his argument that severance is required due to the overwhelming evidence against co-defendants is without merit.” United States v. Espinosa, 771 F.2d 1382, 1409 (10th Cir. 1985). But, in Zafiro, the Supreme Court has recognized, “When many defendants are tried together in a complex case and they have markedly different degrees of culpability, [the] risk of prejudice is heightened.” 506 U.S. at 539. “The risk of prejudice will vary with the facts in each case, and . . . [w]hen the risk of prejudice is high, a district court is more likely to determine that separate trials are necessary[.]” Id. Ordinarily, though, less drastic measures such as limiting instructions will cure the risk of prejudice. See Id. And, generally, courts “‘presume that juries follow [limiting] instructions.'” United States v. Jones, 530 F.3d 1292, 1303 (10th Cir. 2008) (quoting United States v. Lane, 883 F.2d 1484, 1498 (10th Cir. 1989)).

         The Tenth Circuit repeatedly has recognized that limiting instructions usually suffice to mitigate the risk of prejudice. See, e.g., Jones, 530 F.3d at 1303; United States v. Olsen, 519 F.3d 1096, 1103 (10th Cir. 2008) (concluding that a trial court's limiting instruction and “repeated[] reminde[rs] [to] both counsel and the jury” of the specific charge against one defendant favored a finding that the defendant was not unduly prejudiced by a joint trial); United States v. Tucker, 502 Fed.Appx. 720, 724-25 (10th Cir. 2012) (“Rule 14 . . . leaves the tailoring of the relief to be granted, if any, to the district court's sound discretion . . . . And the district court here provided such tailored relief in the form of limiting instructions, which were ‘sufficient to cure potential prejudice.'” (first quoting United States v. Hardwell, 80 F.3d 1471, 1487 (10th Cir. 1996); then citing Zafiro, 506 U.S. at 540-41)).[1]

         2. Do Mr. Garcia-Patino's evidentiary arguments ...

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