Friday, October 24, 2014

U.S. v. Castro-Ponce (9th Cir. - Oct. 24, 2014)

Sometimes wins on appeal are huge victories.  Sometimes they're like this.

Castro-Ponce is charged with distribution of methamphetamine.  The feds have him under surveillance, and on wiretaps, for a long time.  Castro-Ponce testifies in his own defense and provides, under oath, innocent explanations for all of his alleged misconduct.  The jury disbelieves him, and convicts him.

The trial judge then not only sentences Castro-Ponce to the usual consequences, but also tacks on a two-level upward adjustment for obstruction of justice, finding that Castro-Ponce "clearly lied" on the stand.  The guidelines say sentence him to life, but the district court judge sentences him to twenty years.

Casto-Ponce appeals, claiming that the trial judge found that his testimony was false, but also needed to expressly say that his testimony was on a material matter as well as willful in order to tack on the two-level enhancement, which she didn't do.

The Ninth Circuit agrees.  Remanding back to the trial court to see whether it will to make the specific findings on remand that it didn't realize it had to make the first time.

Do you have any doubt whether the district court will make those precise findings on remand?

Not me.  Not in the slightest.