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United States v. Diaz-Rosado

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

May 18, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Appellee,
v.
LUIS YOEL DÍAZ-ROSADO, Defendant, Appellee.

         APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO [Hon. Gustavo A. Gelpí, Jr., U.S. District Judge]

          Alejandra Bird López for appellant.

          Francisco A. Besosa-Martínez, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney, and Mariana E. Bauzá-Almonte, Assistant United States Attorney, Chief, Appellate Division, were on brief for appellee.

          Before Howard, Chief Judge, Torruella and Kayatta, Circuit Judges.

          KAYATTA, Circuit Judge.

         Luis Yoel Díaz-Rosado ("Díaz") was convicted of carjacking under 18 U.S.C. § 2119. On appeal, he challenges the sufficiency of the evidence on the issue of intent, the admission of an alleged confession, the rejection of a proposed supplemental jury instruction, and the admission of an in-court witness identification. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         I. Background

         Although we recite the facts relevant to Díaz's sufficiency challenge in the light most favorable to the prosecution, we "provide a more or less neutral summary" of the facts relevant to Díaz's remaining claims, and reserve further exposition of those facts for our analysis of the claims themselves. See United States v. Flores-Rivera, 787 F.3d 1, 9 (1st Cir. 2015).

         On March 8, 2013, Margarita Irizarry-Ramírez ("Irizarry") picked up her four-year-old granddaughter from elementary school in Hato Rey, Puerto Rico. As Irizarry attempted to buckle the child into a car seat, she sensed the presence of somebody approaching from behind. When she turned around, she found herself facing a man standing approximately five feet, six inches tall, and wearing a dark-colored baseball cap, sunglasses, and a dark-colored shirt.

         The man attempted to wrest Irizarry's car key from her. In the ensuing struggle, which we describe in greater detail below, the man seized the key to the car. As this altercation was taking place, Ronald Vázquez-Rosado ("Vázquez")--a parent at the school --tried to assist Irizarry by attempting to remove her granddaughter from the car. Unable to do so, Vázquez urged Irizarry to remove her granddaughter herself while he tried to restrain the man, who had by that point entered the driver's seat of the vehicle. Irizarry succeeded, Vázquez got out of the car, and the man drove away.

         Vázquez, a former undercover police officer for the Puerto Rico Police Department ("P.R.P.D."), subsequently gave chase in his own vehicle and called 911. While on the telephone with the 911 operator and a police officer, Vázquez spotted Irizarry's vehicle being driven by a man with short black hair. Vázquez relayed this information to the operator and the officer. Noticing that Irizarry's car had suddenly stopped, and fearful that the man might try to engage him, Vázquez drove off and returned to the school.

         A short time later, P.R.P.D. Agent William Méndez-Guzmán ("Agent Méndez") and his patrol partner spotted the stolen vehicle. After a brief chase by car and on foot, Agent Méndez apprehended the driver of the car, whom he later identified as Díaz. Though Irizarry had initially provided the police with a description of the man who had taken her car, she was unable to identify Díaz in a lineup conducted several hours later. Vázquez was similarly unable to identify Díaz in a photo array conducted a few days later.

         Agent Méndez testified that after arresting Díaz, he read Díaz his Miranda rights and took him to the local precinct. Agent Méndez further testified that once they were at the police station, he again advised Díaz of his Miranda rights--both verbally and in writing--and after Díaz acknowledged by signature his receipt of a written copy of those rights, Díaz told him that "he wanted to testify something, to state something." Agent Méndez testified that he "told [Díaz] that if he had anything that he wanted to say . . . he should write it out on the reverse side of the [Miranda form], " and that Díaz subsequently wrote and signed a statement that (the defendant stipulated) translates to English as follows:

I, Luis Yoel Díaz Rosado, belatedly repent the acts I committed against the lady and someone known to me who got into a mess that he did not commit. Sorry.
Thoughtfully,
Luis Yoel Díaz Rosado
I took the car keys from the lady under the influence of substances, may God bless her. And I remember that the police hit the siren.
Thoughtfully,
Luis Yoel Díaz Rosado

         Later that night, P.R.P.D. Agent Angel Fernández-Ortega ("Agent Fernández") presented the case to Puerto Rico District Attorney Francelis Ortiz-Pagán ("D.A. Ortiz"). D.A. Ortiz declined to press charges under the Commonwealth's carjacking statute, due to concerns that Díaz's confession was not "conscious and intelligent" under Pueblo v. Millán Pacheco, 182 P.R. Dec. 595 (2011). Federal prosecutors subsequently charged Díaz with one count of carjacking under 18 U.S.C. § 2119, and a grand jury returned an indictment on this charge on March 21, 2013.

         Prior to trial, Díaz filed a motion in limine to suppress his written confession, arguing that the confession was provided "under the effects of controlled substances" and thus was not voluntary. In the ensuing hearing, D.A. Ortiz testified that Agent Fernández had informed her that Díaz had appeared to be under the influence of drugs during the lineup, which, again, had taken place several hours after Díaz's arrest. However, Agent Fernández denied not only making this statement but also having the impression that Díaz was on drugs. Agent Méndez and another one of the arresting officers--P.R.P.D. Agent Heriberto Soto-Cruz ("Agent Soto")--similarly testified that Díaz did not appear to be under the influence of controlled substances, and Irizarry testified that she did not notice any of the lineup participants "acting in a weird way physically in any way." Though the court "f[ou]nd [D.A. Ortiz] credible, " it also determined that "the witnesses are pretty consistent in that this gentleman was not behaving strangely." The district court then denied Díaz's motion.

         Part way through the subsequent trial, Díaz renewed his motion to suppress his alleged confession on the basis of videos filmed by his brother at the precinct house several hours after Díaz had been brought there. In those videos, an unidentified male voice can be heard saying that "it looks like . . . when [Díaz] came in, he came in too . . . way too you-know-what on drugs, " and further, that "[Díaz] said . . . that he had taken some pills." Díaz's brother testified that that voice belonged to a police officer who was staffing the precinct's reception desk. The brother also testified that Díaz "had a psychiatric history" as well as "drug problems, " and that when he saw Díaz in the station, "[Díaz] was raising his voice, he was babbling, and his hands were on the cell bars and he had an erratic behavior." Nevertheless, the district court denied Díaz's renewed motion to suppress, on the ground that the videos failed to show that Díaz was "actually being coerced."

         During trial, the government called Vázquez to testify. In the course of cross-examination, Díaz's attorney engaged in the following exchange with Vázquez:

Q: And the person was not in that photo; you were not able to identify any person in that photo spread as the person whom you had intervened with.
A: At that moment I was not convinced of the identification of any person, but at this moment I am convinced of the identification of the person.
Q: You are? Please tell me. Please tell me.
A: What do you want me to tell you?
Q: You said that you were now. Please ...

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