Munoz Santos v. Thomas

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Evidence
  • Date Filed: 03-09-2015
  • Case #: 12-56506
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Nguyen for the Court; Circuit Judge Schroeder and District Judge Zouhary
  • Full Text Opinion

Where torture allegations are inextricably intertwined with the witnesses’ recantations, the evidence is properly excluded where its consideration would have required a mini-trial on whether the witnesses’ initial statements were procured by torture.

Jose Munoz Santos was arrested for the kidnapping of Dignora Hermosillo Garcia and her two children. Munoz was identified by two actors in the kidnapping, Fausto Librado Rosas Alfaro and Jesus Servando Hurtado Osuna, as the key orchestrator of the kidnapping. Three other statements were obtained from those involved linking Munoz as the coordinator of the event. With this information the extradition court found probable cause to believe that Munoz was guilty of the alleged kidnapping and certified extradition. The extradition court excluded from evidence six statements based on Barapind v. Enomoto, four from Hurtado and two from Rosas, stating: “[R]ecantation evidence is contradictory evidence, and . . . the complex, nuanced fact-intensive inquiry into the comparative reliability of inculpatory statements and recantations, including the circumstances under which the statements were obtained, is appropriately reserved for determination by courts of the requesting state, which have access to the full panoply of evidence.” The district court denied Munoz’s habeas petition. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit agreed that the subsequent statements of Rosas and Hurtado were recantations; they directly contradicted or challenged these witnesses’ initial inculpatory statements. In order to determine whether to credit the subsequent statements or the initial inculpatory statements, the extradition court would have to weigh conflicting evidence and make credibility findings. Therefore, “the extradition court did not abuse its discretion in excluding Rosas’ and Hurtado’s statements alleging torture as contradictory evidence.” The panel held that “the district court properly denied Munoz’s habeas petition because the extradition court’s probable cause determination was supported by competent evidence.” AFFIRMED.

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