Monday, June 04, 2012

US v. Diaz, 2012 WL 1592967 (10th Cir. 5/8/12) Defendant was convicted pursuant to the Assimilative Crimes Act of knowingly leaving the scene of a fatal accident in Indian country. The court affirmed. The government sufficiently proved the victim (a pedestrian struck on the side of the road) was a non-Indian for jurisdictional purposes based on the testimony of his father regarding the family's history. The jury instructions adequately informed the jury that it had to find the defendant knew that an accident had occurred. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing in, as FRE 404(b) evidence, the fact that the defendant had been drinking before the accident. The evidence was admitted for the proper purpose of establishing a reason for the defendant having left the scene, and relevant to that issue. It was no more prejudicial than the charged crime of leaving the scene of a fatal accident. Evidence of the victim's intoxication was properly excluded as irrelevant. The judge's comments regarding certain cross-examination of a government witness about how the judge could not see the relevance of the questions were not an abuse of discretion or deprive the defendant of a fair trial. And they were harmless in light of government evidence that the defendant had made calls to her sister, son, and a member of the tribal police about having hit something. The defendant was not entitled to a new trial on her Brady claim. One government witness was a sheriff's officer who had been involved in a SWAT team incident in the 1990s. Defendant's cousin was involved in the incident, and an officer was killed. The cousin was acquitted, based on self-defense, and later sued the SWAT team. The government did not disclose this information. The court doubted that this information was favorable, and even if it was considered favorable, the undisclosed evidence was not material in light of the limited probative value of the officer's testimony.