Tuesday, January 31, 2017

US v. Niebla-Torres, No. 10261 (1-31-17)(Christen w/Fletcher & Friedland).  "Corpus delicti" requires that a conviction rest on more than a defendant's uncorroborated account.  Here, in a "scout" case (a lookout on the Pozo Redondo Mountain in southern Arizona), the defendant gave a statement to the agent supposedly recounting what he was doing in guiding marijuana backpackers.  He had camouflage, binoculars, cell phones, batteries and so forth.  Subsequently, the defendant argued that he was pressured into the statement.  He was convicted at a bench trial.

On appeal, the defendant argued that the government failed to present corroborating evidence on the core agreement:  Under the corpus delicti doctrine, the government first must introduce sufficient evidence that the conduct at the core of the criminal offense occurred; and second, independent evidence must be introduced to establish the trustworthiness of the admissions.  The evidence introduced need not be independently sufficient to convict the defendant.  Here, there was sufficient independent evidence introduced to support a conviction for possession with intent to distribute.  The 9th affirmed.

The decision is here:



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