United States District Court, D. Colorado
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S SECOND MOTION IN
CHRISTINE M. ARGUELLO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendant Alejandro
Resendiz's Second Motion in Limine. (Doc. # 86.) The
Government filed a Response (Doc. # 93) on May 22, 2019. For
the reasons that follow, the Court grants the Motion.
November 15, 2018, Defendant was charged by indictment with
two violations of federal law related to the possession and
distribution of narcotics. (Doc. # 24.) Defendant proceeded
to trial on April 22, 2019. (Doc. # 71.) On April 23, 2019,
Defendant testified in his own defense, utilizing the
assistance of an interpreter. (Doc. # 73.)
the interpreter engaged in conduct during Defendant's
testimony that significantly disrupted the proceedings.
Additionally, the interpreter made substantive errors in his
translation, and his translation was often incomplete. Due to
the considerable prejudice that the interpreter caused to
Defendant's right to present a defense and right to a
fair trial, the Court declared a mistrial on April 24, 2019.
(Doc. # 72.) The Court set a second trial for June 3, 2019.
17, 2019, Defendant filed the instant Motion in which he
seeks to preclude the Government from using the transcript of
Defendant's testimony at the first trial as a means to
impeach Defendant in the event that he should choose to
testify at the second trial. (Doc. # 86 at 1-3.)
Rule of Evidence 801 provides that a declarant-witness's
prior statement is not hearsay if “the declarant
testifies and is subject to cross-examination about a prior
statement, and the statement . . . is inconsistent with the
declarant's testimony and was given under penalty of
perjury at a trial, hearing, or other proceeding . . .
.” Fed.R.Evid. 801(d)(1)(A). In the instant case, the
statements that Defendant made at the first trial were made
under penalty of perjury. Therefore, if the Government sought
to use those statements at the second trial to illustrate an
inconsistency in Defendant's testimony for impeachment
purposes, the statements would not be hearsay. Additionally,
the statements would be relevant under Rule 401 because they
would potentially undermine Defendant's credibility as a
pursuant to Rule 403, “[t]he court may exclude relevant
evidence if its probative value is substantially outweighed
by a danger of . . . unfair prejudice,
confusing the issues, [or] misleading the jury . . . .”
Fed.R.Evid. 403 (emphasis added).
argues that if the Government “were to use the prior
trial transcript . . . as impeachment, [it] would be
introducing unproven facts and infecting the second trial
with the same issues that resulted in the mistrial of the
first trial.” (Doc. # 86 at 2.) In response, the
Government argues that there may be translation errors in
“some, but not nearly all of the statements, ”
which justifies using the statements “solely for
impeachment purposes if and only if the defendant again takes
the witness stand and testifies inconsistently under oath . .
. .” (Doc. # 93 at 2.)
Government's point is well taken that not all of
Defendant's statements from the first trial may have been
impacted by the interpreter's conduct. However, the Court
has reviewed the transcript of Defendant's testimony from
the prior trial (Doc. # 84 at 167-208), and it is not readily
apparent which statements were affected by interpreter error
and which statements were not.
other hand, the Court considered the interpreter's
overall influence on Defendant's testimony to be so
prejudicial that Defendant had been deprived of a fair trial.
(Doc. # 72) (“[Defendant's] trial was rendered
unfair when the interpreter assigned to assist him became a
barrier to Mr. Resendiz's ability to testify and to
present his defense.”). As a consequence, allowing the
Government to use Defendant's prior testimony for
impeachment purposes would create a substantial danger of
unfair prejudice to Defendant. Additionally, there would also
be a substantial danger of misleading and confusing the jury.
jurors might find Defendant's credibility to be
diminished because he made inconsistent statements, but the
statements could be inconsistent solely as a result of
interpreter error at the first trial. Therefore, the
probative value of Defendant's statements from the first
trial is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair
prejudice, confusing the issues, and misleading the jury.
Fed.R.Evid. 403. Accordingly, the Government is precluded
from using Defendant's statements from the first trial
for impeachment purposes in the event that Defendant
testifies in the second trial.