UNITED STATES v. LOZADO

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United States Court of Appeals,Tenth Circuit.

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff–Appellee, v. Gregory LOZADO, Defendant–Appellant.

No. 14–1094.

    Decided: January 20, 2015

Before HARTZ, MATHESON, and MORITZ, Circuit Judges.Submitted on the briefs: *Antony M. Noble, The Noble Law Firm, LLC, Lakewood, CO, for Appellant. Stephanie N. Gaddy, Special Assistant United States Attorney (John F. Walsh, United States Attorney, with her on the brief), Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Colorado, Denver, CO, for Appellee.

At his jury trial for being a felon in possession of ammunition in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), Gregory Lozado asked the district court to admit a hearsay statement from his brother-in-law, Novelle Farris, claiming ownership of the ammunition. The court excluded the statement because it did not meet the hearsay exception requirements of Federal Rule of Evidence 804(b)(3) for a statement against interest. The jury convicted Mr. Lozado. The court sentenced him to prison for 235 months.

Mr. Lozado now appeals. Exercising jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, we affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Legal Background

The sole issue in this appeal concerns application of the hearsay exception for statements against interest. We provide a brief overview of this exception here to place in legal context the ensuing discussion of Mr. Lozado's stop, arrest, and search; Mr. Farris's statements; and the district court's rulings on the admissibility of those statements.

Hearsay is an out-of-court statement “offer[ed] in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted in the statement.” Fed.R.Evid. 801(c). Hearsay is generally inadmissible as evidence because it is considered unreliable. Williamson v. United States, 512 U.S. 594, 598, 114 S.Ct. 2431, 129 L.Ed.2d 476 (1994). The hearsay rule, however, is subject to exceptions.

One such exception is for statements against interest. Fed.R.Evid. 804(b)(3). To qualify as a statement against interest, a statement must have been made by a declarant considered unavailable as a witness. Fed.R.Evid. 804(a). A declarant is unavailable as a witness if he or she “is exempted from testifying ․ because the court rules that a privilege applies,” “refuses to testify,” “testifies to not remembering the subject matter,” “cannot be present ․ because of death or ․ illness,” or is absent and the statement's proponent cannot procure the declarant's attendance. Id.

A statement against interest made by an unavailable declarant is one that:

(A) a reasonable person in the declarant's position would have made only if the person believed it to be true because, when made, it was so contrary to the declarant's proprietary or pecuniary interest or had so great a tendency to invalidate the declarant's claim against someone else or to expose the declarant to civil or criminal liability; and

(B) is supported by corroborating circumstances that clearly indicate its trustworthiness, if it is offered in a criminal case as one that tends to expose the declarant to criminal liability.

Fed.R.Evid. 804(b)(3). In sum, three prerequisites must be met to admit a hearsay statement in a criminal case that tends to expose a declarant to criminal liability: (1) an unavailable declarant, (2) a statement against the declarant's penal interest, and (3) sufficient corroborating circumstances that clearly indicate the trustworthiness of the statement. See Fed.R.Evid. 804; United States v. Porter, 881 F.2d 878, 882 (10th Cir.1989).

B. Mr. Lozado's Stop, Arrest, and Search

On March 21, 2013, Officers Sean Stevenson and Richard Eric Shurley of the Denver Police Department noticed someone driving a car with a cracked windshield and an expired, temporary Texas license plate. They followed the car and initiated a traffic stop. The driver, Mr. Lozado, stopped the car, immediately jumped out, and ran into his nearby apartment building. The officers saw what appeared to be a black handgun in Mr. Lozado's right hand. After police surrounded the apartment building, Mr. Lozado surrendered.

Officer Stevenson confirmed the driver was Mr. Lozado and the car was registered in Mr. Lozado's name. Officer Stevenson then searched the car. He found a large plastic trash bag behind the driver's seat. It contained a small black purse. Inside the purse, Officer Stevenson found ten 9–millimeter bullets and a .38 caliber spent shell casing. Winchester made the bullets, which had brass shell casings. Also in the plastic trash bag, Officer Stevenson found pills, hallucinogenic mushrooms, a large sword with an ivory handle, a brown wallet containing Mr. Lozado's driver's license, and a small gum wrapper that Officer Stevenson suspected contained methamphetamine.

Officers also searched Mr. Lozado's apartment. They did not find a firearm but did find a bag containing hallucinogenic mushrooms, a twenty-dollar bill, and red pills under a cushion on the sofa. In a closet, an officer found a pair of shorts containing a 9–millimeter bullet, a .45 caliber bullet, a bag of white powder later determined to be cocaine base, and two envelopes. The bullets, not made by Winchester, had gray shell casings. The envelopes contained paystubs made out to Mr. Farris.

After being taken into custody, Mr. Lozado told Officer Adam Bechthold about a bag with 9–millimeter ammunition and some .38 caliber shell casings in the main compartment of his car, a plastic bag with hallucinogenic mushrooms and a single prescription pill in the center console, and a BB gun in the trunk. He also told Officer Bechthold what appeared to be the handgun he had been holding was actually a wax handgun, which he had broken up into four pieces and flushed down the toilet. Mr. Lozado said he needed live ammunition to make the wax handgun and the BB gun look real.

Later at the police station, Mr. Lozado admitted the ammunition and drugs in the car and the hallucinogenic mushrooms, twenty-dollar bill, and pills in his sofa were his. But he did not take responsibility for the drugs found in Mr. Farris's shorts, saying instead that if Mr. Farris owned something, he “need [ed] to be a man and stand up and take his punishment.” ROA, Vol. III at 726.

Police arrested Mr. Farris on the same day for possession of a controlled substance, but they released him without charges.

C. Mr. Farris's Interview

On November 13, 2013, law enforcement agents interviewed Mr. Farris, assuring him they would not arrest him. In this interview, Mr. Farris stated the drugs and bullets found in the shorts and the bullets in the car belonged to him. He said he had purchased the ammunition a few days before Mr. Lozado's arrest and had borrowed Mr. Lozado's car to transport the bullets to his cousin's house. Mr. Farris said Mr. Lozado knew he had planned to take the ammunition to his cousin's house but did not know Mr. Farris had not yet removed the ammunition from the car when he was pulled over.

Mr. Farris said the ammunition was both 9–millimeter and .45 caliber and was boxed. When asked why, if he had just purchased it, the ammunition in the car was not found in a box, Mr. Farris said he had both loose and boxed ammunition and had left the former in the car. Mr. Farris described the ammunition in the car as the same type as that found in his shorts. He thought there were 40 to 50 bullets in the car. He described the 9–millimeter ammunition as having gray shell casings with a copper tip.

Mr. Farris also admitted he was an illegal-drug user and had used drugs on the day of Mr. Lozado's arrest. But throughout his interview, Mr. Farris said he had not done anything illegal or wrong.

D. Indictment and Trial

A grand jury returned a one-count indictment charging Mr. Lozado with possession of a firearm and ammunition by a felon in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1).

Mr. Lozado moved for admission of Mr. Farris's statements about the drugs and the ammunition under Rule 804(b)(3). The Government moved to bar admission of the statements. As to the ammunition, the Government argued (1) Mr. Farris had no idea possession of ammunition by an illegal-drug user is a crime, and (2) Mr. Lozado could not show corroborating circumstances indicating the trustworthiness of the statement. The district court deferred its ruling until trial.

At trial, Mr. Lozado argued the statement about the ammunition was a statement against interest because 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3) makes it a crime for a user of illegal drugs, like Mr. Farris, to possess ammunition. Mr. Lozado's counsel acknowledged he had not previously known about the statute and that Mr. Farris probably had not known about it either.

The district court first determined Mr. Farris was unavailable as a witness under Rule 804(a)(1) because he had properly invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. It then ruled Mr. Farris's statement about the drugs in the shorts was admissible because “a reasonable person would believe that that would tend to expose him to criminal liability.” Id. at 781. The court further found corroborating circumstances confirmed the drugs were his because paystubs with Mr. Farris's name on them were also found in the shorts. This ruling is not at issue in this appeal.

The court also ruled the statement about ammunition was inadmissible because Mr. Lozado could not establish either Rule 804(b)(3) factor—that a reasonable person in Mr. Farris's position would have known his statement was incriminating, Fed.R.Evid. 804(b)(3)(A), or that circumstances corroborated the trustworthiness of the statement, Fed.R.Evid. 804(b)(3)(B).

First, the court held “a reasonable person in Mr. Farris's position would have [no] idea that his status as a drug user would have disabled him under federal law from possessing ammunition.” ROA, Vol. III at 783. Invoking his experiences as a prosecutor and judge, the district court judge observed 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3) charges are rare. Further, the court noted it had “anecdotal information here that [Mr. Lozado's attorney] is an able and experienced criminal defense lawyer [who] was not aware of that particular charge.” Id.

Second, noting inconsistencies between Mr. Farris's statements and the facts, the court found insufficient corroborating circumstances linking Mr. Farris to the ammunition.

On November 20, 2013, the jury returned a guilty verdict. It found Mr. Lozado possessed ammunition, but did not find that Mr. Lozado possessed a firearm. On March 12, 2014, the district court sentenced Mr. Lozado to 235 months in prison and five years of supervised release. Mr. Lozado timely filed his notice of appeal on March 14, 2014. See Fed. R.App. P. 4(b)(1).

II. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

We review a district court's decision to admit or exclude evidence for abuse of discretion. United States v. Smalls, 605 F.3d 765, 773 (10th Cir.2010). “The need for deference to a [district] court ruling on a hearsay objection is particularly great because the determination of whether certain evidence is hearsay rests heavily upon the facts of a particular case.” United States v. Rodriguez–Pando, 841 F.2d 1014, 1018 (10th Cir.1988).

We can disturb a district court's evidentiary ruling, however, if there is “a distinct showing that it was based on a clearly erroneous finding of fact, or an erroneous conclusion of law or manifests a clear error in judgment.” Smalls, 605 F.3d at 773 (quotations omitted). “A district court by definition abuses its discretion when it makes an error of law.” Koon v. United States, 518 U.S. 81, 100, 116 S.Ct. 2035, 135 L.Ed.2d 392 (1996).

B. Analysis

The parties disagree (1) whether Mr. Farris's statement about the ammunition was against his penal interest and (2) whether his statement was sufficiently corroborated.1

We hold the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding (1) Mr. Farris's statement was not against his penal interest and (2) the circumstances did not corroborate the trustworthiness of the statement. As a result, we affirm the district court's decision to exclude Mr. Farris's statement.

1. Statement Against Penal Interest

A statement against interest is one that “a reasonable person in the declarant's position would have made only if the person believed it to be true.” Fed.R.Evid. 804(b)(3)(A). It must be against the declarant's proprietary, pecuniary, or penal interest. Id. Statements against penal interest expose the declarant to criminal liability. Williamson, 512 U.S. at 599–600. “To be admissible under Rule 804(b)(3), a statement against penal interest must so far tend to subject the declarant to criminal liability that a reasonable man in his position would not have made the statement unless he believed it to be true.” United States v. Chalan, 812 F.2d 1302, 1311 (10th Cir.1987) (quotations omitted).

The parties disagree as to whether the declarant must be aware the statement was against penal interest. Mr. Lozado argues it is enough that Mr. Farris's statement in fact exposed him to criminal liability. He contends that although Mr. Farris may not have known his statement exposed him to criminal liability, and although a reasonable person in his position similarly may not have been aware, the fact Mr. Farris admitted he was an unlawful user of a controlled substance in possession of ammunition—a criminal offense under 18 U .S.C. § 922(g)(3)—alone satisfies Rule 804(b)(3)(A). The Government argues a statement is against a declarant's penal interest only when a reasonable person in the declarant's position would know the statement is against his or her penal interest, and that is not the case here.

The district court agreed with the Government that Mr. Farris's statement was not against his penal interest under Rule 804(b)(3)(A). We reach the same conclusion by (a) exploring the rationale for the statement against interest hearsay exception, (b) explaining how evidence of the declarant's actual knowledge of whether the statement is against penal interest should be considered in Rule 804(b)(3)(A)'s “a reasonable person in the declarant's position” standard, and (c) analyzing Mr. Farris's statement.

a. The rationale for Rule 804(b)(3)

The statement against interest exception to the hearsay rule is based on the “commonsense notion that reasonable people, even reasonable people who are not especially honest, tend not to make self-inculpatory statements unless they believe them to be true.” Williamson, 512 U.S. at 599. In other words, “[t]he circumstantial guarant[ee] of reliability for declarations against interest is the assumption that persons do not make statements which are damaging to themselves unless satisfied for good reason that they are true.” Fed.R.Evid. 804 advisory committee notes; see also Emily F. Duck, The Williamson Standard for the Exception to the Rule Against Hearsay for Statements Against Penal Interest, 85 J.Crim. L. & Criminology 1084, 1086–87 (1995) (detailing the legislative history of Rule 804(b)(3), noting the drafters of Rule 804(b)(3) recognized “that exposure to punishment for crime was a sufficient guarantor of evidentiary reliability” (quotations omitted)). Without awareness that the statement could have adverse consequences, the statement lacks circumstantial guarantees of trustworthiness.

Courts accordingly consider the statement in context and the circumstances under which it was made. See, e.g., Williamson, 512 U.S. at 603 (“[S]tatements that are on their face neutral may actually be against the declarant's interest․ ‘Sam and I went to Joe's house’ might be against the declarant's interest if a reasonable person in the declarant's shoes would realize that being linked to Joe and Sam would implicate the declarant in Joe and Sam's conspiracy.” (emphasis added)).

Under Mr. Lozado's interpretation, it would be unnecessary to consider context and circumstances; knowledge of the statement's incriminating nature would simply be presumed.2 But the rationale for Rule 804(b)(3) calls for awareness the statement is self-inculpatory.3

b. Actual knowledge as to whether the statement is against penal interest and “a reasonable person in the declarant's position”

Rule 804(b)(3)(A) mandates that courts consider the awareness of “a reasonable person in the declarant's position.” Fed.R.Evid. 804(b)(3)(A). But how does this standard take into account cases in which the evidence establishes the declarant's actual knowledge as to whether a statement is self-incriminating?

As we explain below, the actual knowledge of the declarant, when the evidence establishes it, is part of the “reasonable person in the declarant's position” calculus. The reasonable person standard also applies when proof of the declarant's state of mind is lacking.4

i. Reasonable person and evidence of actual knowledge as to whether the statement is against penal interest

The declarant's actual knowledge that a statement is self-incriminating tends to meet the Rule's rationale for circumstantial assurance of truth. “[T]he declarant must have understood the statement to be against his interests. Without this consciousness prong, the declarant would lack adequate basis for making a reasonable determination, thus eradicating the statement's reliability․ The traditional approach has required apparent awareness by the declarant that the statement was contrary to his interests.” John P. Cronan, Do Statements Against Interests Exist? A Critique of the Reliability of Federal Rule of Evidence 804(b)(3) and a Proposed Reformulation, 33 Seton Hall L.Rev. 1, 13 (2002); see Bernard S. Jefferson, Declarations Against Interest: An Exception to the Hearsay Rule, 58 Harv. L.Rev. 1, 17 (1944) (“[I]t is not the fact that the declaration is against interest but the awareness of that fact by the declarant which gives the statement significance.”).

Crediting the declarant's actual knowledge of the statement's self-inculpatory nature is compatible with the Rule's text. Rule 804(b)(3)(A) calls on courts to assess whether a statement is against interest from the standpoint of “a reasonable person in the declarant's position.” Fed.R.Evid. 804(b)(3)(A). If there is proof of the declarant's actual knowledge, “a reasonable person in the declarant's position” would have the declarant's actual knowledge. And consideration of the declarant's actual awareness of whether the statement is self-incriminating would be consistent with our obligation to consider all the surrounding circumstances and context of the statement. See Williamson, 512 U.S. at 603–04 (stating the question of whether a statement is against a declarant's penal interest “can only be answered in light of all the surrounding circumstances”); Glen Weissenberger, Federal Rules of Evidence 804: Admissible Hearsay from an Unavailable Declarant, 55 U. Cin. L.Rev. 1079, 1121 (1987) (“The ‘in his position’ language clearly reflects an intent to include the surrounding circumstances and factual context of the statement in the evaluation of whether the statement is contrary to the declarant's interest.”).5

Our cases applying the Rule 804(b)(3)(A) standard recognize that a statement from a declarant who is subjectively aware the statement is self-inculpatory can qualify as a statement against interest. See Crespin v. New Mexico, 144 F.3d 641, 647 (10th Cir.1998) (approving of a state court's finding that the declarant subjected herself to some liability because the declarant “knew her conduct was wrong” (quotations omitted)); Jennings v. Maynard, 946 F.2d 1502, 1506 (10th Cir.1991) (rejecting the argument the declarant “did not believe that his statement to [an investigating agent] would subject him to criminal liability and, therefore, is not a statement against interest” because, in part, the agent “warned [the declarant] that he could be subject to criminal liability and read [the declarant] his Miranda rights”).

Other courts have upheld the exclusion of statements when evidence showed the declarant did not believe the statement was against penal interest. See United States v. Two Shields, 497 F.3d 789, 793 (8th Cir.2007) (declining to admit a declarant's “head shake” as a statement against interest because the declarant was so intoxicated that “he could not have been able to appreciate that the statement was against his interest”); United States v. Zirpolo, 704 F.2d 23, 27 (1st Cir.1983) (holding an affidavit could not be admitted under Rule 804(b)(3) because the declarant signed it without a full understanding that it was against his interest to sign the document).6

Thus, evidence establishing the declarant's actual knowledge as to whether the statement is against penal interest should be attributed to “a reasonable person in the declarant's position.” But without such evidence, as is often the case, a court must determine what “a reasonable person in the declarant's position” would know, which we turn to next. See 2 McCormick on Evidence § 319 (Kenneth S. Broun ed., 7th ed. 2013) (“The usual standard is that found in Federal Evidence Rule 804(b)(3)(A): ‘a reasonable person in the declarant's position would true.’ Difficulties of proof, probabilities, and the unavailability of the declarant all favor the accepted standard. However, statements of a declarant disclosing his or her ostensible actual mental state should certainly be received and should control in an appropriate case.”); Peter W. Tague, Perils of the Rulemaking Process: The Development, Application, and Unconstitutionality of Rule 804(b)(3)'s Penal Interest Exception, 69 Geo. L.J. 851, 935 (1981) (“[R]ule 804(b)(3) does not forbid a court from investigating the declarant's subjective understanding of his statement. Thus, a court should consider what the declarant thought when evidence of his understanding exists.”).7

ii. Reasonable person and no evidence of actual knowledge as to whether the statement is against penal interest

When, as is often the case, the declarant's belief about the self-inculpatory nature of the statement is unknown, Rule 804(b)(3)(A) requires a determination of whether “a reasonable person in the declarant's position would have ․ believed [the statement] to be true.” Fed.R.Evid. 804(b)(3)(A). “The Advisory Committee apparently chose the ‘reasonable man [in the declarant's position]’ test over a purely subjective test because it thought that the declarant's unavailability to testify at trial almost always would foreclose judicial determination of his state of mind at the time he made the statement.” Tague, supra, at 935.8

This court's cases have applied the reasonable person standard when evidence of the declarant's actual knowledge as to whether the statement is against penal interest was seemingly lacking. See Smalls, 605 F.3d at 786 (finding the declarant made statements against his penal interest because the statements were “sufficiently against [the declarant's] penal interest such that no reasonable person would say those things without believing them to be true,” and “[u]nder the circumstances presented, a reasonable person would not falsely admit to participating in [the victim's] murder aware of the possibility, however slight, that such admission could subject him to criminal prosecution and punishment”); United States v. Lopez, 777 F.2d 543, 554 (10th Cir.1985) (“We believe that [the declarant's] statements tended to shift criminal liability from [the defendant] to himself to an extent that a reasonable man in his position would not have made the statements unless he believed them to be true.”).

* * *

In sum, under Rule 804(b)(3)(A), if proof establishes the declarant's actual state of mind as to whether the statement is against penal interest, courts should consider that evidence as part of “in the declarant's position” to determine whether the hearsay is admissible.9 If, however, the declarant's state of mind on the against-interest question has not been proved, courts should consider whether “a reasonable person in the declarant's position” would believe the statement is against his or her interest.10

c. Application to this case

We first consider whether there was evidence as to Mr. Farris's knowledge that the statement about the ammunition was against his penal interest. The trial record suggests Mr. Farris may not have believed his declaration was against his interest because he did not know it is a crime for an illegal-drug user to possess ammunition. Mr. Farris's attorney indicated, for example, “Mr. Farris probably didn't” know of § 922(g)(3). ROA, Vol. III at 561. Further, the Government represented Mr. Farris said he had not done anything illegal or wrong. Id. at 575. But it is unclear whether Mr. Farris was referring to his possession of the ammunition, the drugs, or both. And the district court did not make any findings on Mr. Farris's actual knowledge. We therefore do not believe there is enough evidence of Mr. Farris's actual state of mind to review the exclusion of his statement on this ground.11

We thus turn to the reasonable person analysis without the benefit of having conclusive evidence of Mr. Farris's actual knowledge. Applying the reasonable person standard, we must determine whether the district court abused its discretion in determining “a reasonable person in Mr. Farris' position would have [no] idea that his status as a drug user would have disabled him under federal law from possessing ammunition.” Id. at 783. The district judge said 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3) charges are rare, invoking his experiences as a prosecutor and judge. The judge also noted defense counsel was himself unaware of this criminal charge.

The district court did not abuse its discretion. Although the district judge's and defense counsel's personal experiences and knowledge about the rarity of § 922(g)(3) charges may not be a strong foundation to draw broad conclusions about a reasonable person's beliefs, Mr. Lozado bears the burden of showing the statement was against penal interest. Porter, 881 F.2d at 882. He has pointed to nothing demonstrating the district court erred in finding that § 922(g)(3) charges are infrequent or that a reasonable person in Mr. Farris's position would otherwise have known the statement would be against his interest. See United States v. Burchard, 580 F.3d 341, 355 (6th Cir.2009) (Gibbons, J., concurring) (“In my experience, cases under § 922(g)(3) are infrequently prosecuted․”); United States v. Mitchell, 175 F. App'x 524, 527 (3d Cir.2006) (unpublished) (recognizing the infrequent prosecution of convicted felons for possessing ammunition is relevant in determining the self-inculpatory nature of a hearsay statement); United States v. Palumbo, 639 F.2d 123, 128 (3d Cir.1981) (rejecting the admission of a statement that “technically ․ could have been used to support” a conviction against the declarant, but which was not the type of statement that “so far tended to subject [the declarant] to criminal liability that a reasonable person in [her] position would not have made the statement unless [s]he believed it to be true” (quotations and alteration omitted)).12

For these reasons, we affirm the district court's ruling that Mr. Farris's statement was not against his penal interest.

2. Corroborating Circumstances

Even if Mr. Farris's statement had been against his penal interest, we would nevertheless affirm because, as the district court determined, Mr. Lozado has not shown the circumstances sufficiently corroborated the statement.

Rule 804(b)(3)(B) states that if a hearsay statement would expose an unavailable declarant to criminal liability, its admission must be supported by “corroborating circumstances that clearly indicate its trustworthiness.” Fed.R.Evid. 804(b)(3)(B). “[T]he inference of trustworthiness from the proffered ‘corroborating circumstances' must be strong, not merely allowable.” United States v. Salvador, 820 F.2d 558, 561 (2d Cir.1987). This “is not an insignificant hurdle,” United States v. Barrett, 539 F.2d 244, 253 (1st Cir.1976), though “[t]he court does not have to conclude that the statements sought to be admitted were surely true, for it is the role of the jury—not the court—to assess the credibility of witness testimony,” United States v. Doyle, 130 F.3d 523, 543 (2d Cir.1997); see also United States v. Garcia, 986 F.2d 1135, 1141 (7th Cir.1993) (“The district court must find only that sufficient corroborating circumstances exist and then permit the jury to make the ultimate determination concerning the truth of the statements.”).

Neither Rule 804(b)(3)(B) nor the advisory committee notes defines the nature of “corroborating circumstances,” apart from mentioning that “[t]he requirement of corroboration should be construed in such a manner as to effectuate its purpose of circumventing fabrication.” Fed.R.Evid. 804 advisory committee notes; see 2 McCormick on Evidence § 319 (Kenneth S. Broun ed., 6th ed. 2006) (“Both the proper role for, and definition of, corroboration for statements against interest is almost hopelessly confused.”). Corroboration of the trustworthiness of the statement could mean consideration of (1) the declarant's credibility, (2) whether evidence supports or contradicts the statement, or (3) both. See Salvador, 820 F.2d at 561.

The Tenth Circuit has not squarely addressed how a statement must be corroborated. Other circuits have expressed varying views. See United States v. Henderson, 736 F.3d 1128, 1131 (7th Cir.2013) (stating “corroboration of the content of the hearsay statement may indicate that the statement is trustworthy”); United States v. Price, 134 F.3d 340, 347 (6th Cir.1998) (stating the Rule “does not require that the information within the statement be clearly corroborated; it requires only that there be corroborating circumstances which clearly indicate the trustworthiness of the statement, itself” (emphasis removed)); Salvador, 820 F.2d at 562 (requiring corroboration of both the declarant's credibility and the truth of the statement); United States v. Brainard, 690 F.2d 1117, 1125 (4th Cir.1982) (concluding the Rule “requires not a determination that the declarant is credible, but a finding that the circumstances clearly indicate that the statement was not fabricated”); see also Tague, supra, at 946–53, 958–59 (stating the Rule does not explain what needs to be corroborated and federal courts have struggled with the test).

Although we think the declarant's credibility and the circumstances of the statement bearing on its truthfulness can both be considerations, we do not need to decide what specifically must be used to corroborate because there were (a) no corroborating circumstances of any kind that clearly indicated the trustworthiness of Mr. Farris's statement. We also note two circumstances that counsel against the trustworthiness of the statement: (b) the close relationship between Mr. Farris and Mr. Lozado and (c) the inconsistencies in Mr. Farris's statement.

a. No additional evidence

First, no evidence, apart from Mr. Farris's statement, suggested the ammunition in the car belonged to him. Although Mr. Farris's paystubs corroborated his claimed ownership of the drugs in the shorts, no analogous circumstances corroborated his ownership of the ammunition. Evidence that other people used Mr. Lozado's car did not corroborate Mr. Farris's statement that he had access to the car or that he owned the ammunition in the car.

The police officers found the ammunition in Mr. Lozado's car, not in Mr. Farris's home or in his shorts. See United States v. Perez, 963 F.2d 314, 315–16 (10th Cir.1992) (finding an insufficient showing of corroborating circumstances to verify a declarant's statement he owned drugs found in the defendant's storage unit because the fact an access card for the storage unit had been found in the declarant's home did not necessarily mean the declarant owned the drugs). Further, Mr. Lozado's own statement claiming ownership of the ammunition linked himself, not Mr. Farris, to the ammunition. See id. (finding an insufficient showing of corroborating circumstances because police found the defendant's—not the declarant's—fingerprints on jars containing the drugs, and similar jars were found in the defendant's residence).

b. Close relationship

Second, Mr. Farris's statement is suspect because he is Mr. Lozado's brother-in-law, which provided him with a motive to help Mr. Lozado. A close relationship between the declarant and the defendant can damage the trustworthiness of a statement. See Porter, 881 F.2d at 883 (holding the close relationship between the declarant and the defendant supported the district court's determination that there were insufficient corroborating circumstances clearly indicating the trustworthiness of the declarant's statement); see also United States v. Jones, 124 F.3d 781, 786 (6th Cir.1997) (“In regard to trustworthiness, this court has found that statements from a declarant attempting to exculpate a defendant with whom the declarant has a close relationship must be closely scrutinized.”); Garcia, 986 F.2d at 1140 (“[I]f the two involved parties do not have a close relationship, one important corroborating circumstance exists.”).

c. Inconsistencies

Third, Mr. Farris's statement contained several inconsistencies that undermined his credibility and the probative value of his statement. See Doyle, 130 F.3d at 544. The inconsistencies here were not “relatively minor.” Garcia, 986 F.2d at 1140. Mr. Farris reported 40 to 50 rounds of ammunition in the car, when only ten were found. He also claimed he had just recently purchased the ammunition. But when asked why, if he had just purchased it, the ammunition was not in a box, Mr. Farris changed his story. He stated he had both loose and boxed ammunition, and the former was in Mr. Lozado's car. Mr. Farris also described the bullets in the car as being the same as the bullets in his shorts, but they were not the same, as Mr. Lozado acknowledges. The bullets were different colors, made by different manufacturers, and different calibers.

* * *

For these reasons, we affirm the district court's holding there were insufficient circumstances corroborating Mr. Farris's claim the ammunition belonged to him.

III. CONCLUSION

For the foregoing reasons, we affirm the district court's judgment of conviction.

MATHESON, Circuit Judge.

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