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Judges ‘disturbed’ by linking of drugs to defendant’s nationality

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Even though the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals was “disturbed” by a government agent’s improperly admitted testimony linking a defendant’s Mexican nationality to the methamphetamine at issue, the court declined to grant a new trial.

Juan Ramirez-Fuentes was charged and convicted of one count each of possession with the intent to distribute 500 grams or more of methamphetamine and possessing firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime. He received 295 months in prison. The convictions are based on Ramirez-Fuentes’ admittance that 3.1 kilograms of methamphetamine and two firearms found at his brother’s apartment were actually his.

In United States of America v. Juan Ramirez-Fuentes, 12-1494, he argued that the District Court in Hammond erred in admitting testimony from Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Jon Johnson, who described the recovered drug as “Mexican methamphetamine,” which he noted is produced by “Mexican nationals;” and Johnson’s testimony about violence associated with drug trafficking. Ramirez-Fuentes’ attorney did not object to that testimony at trial, so the 7th Circuit examined it for plain error.

“We find unconvincing Ramirez-Fuentes’s argument that the district court should have excluded Agent Johnson’s testimony about drug trafficking under Rule 403 because it caused jurors to associate Ramirez-Fuentes with violent behavior,” Judge Joel Flaum wrote. “Agent Johnson’s discussion of the relationship between guns and drugs, during which time he referenced the violence that is part of the drug trade, was highly probative of Ramirez-Fuentes’s guilt on the firearm possession charge and any potential for prejudice was slight.”

But the judges were not pleased with the court allowing Johnson’s testimony regarding the “Mexican” nature of the methamphetamine. The 7th Circuit agreed with other Circuit courts that had held the admission of government-proffered testimony tying the race or ethnicity of a defendant to the racial or ethnic characteristics of a special drug trade is improper.

“Here, Agent Johnson made unnecessary and avoidable references to Ramirez-Fuentes’s nationality in response to questions from the prosecution. The references to 'Mexican methamphetamine' invited the jury, albeit implicitly, to consider Ramirez-Fuentes’s nationality in reaching its decision in the case. Thus, even if the evidence was at all relevant under Rule 401, it should have nonetheless been excluded under Rule 403 because of the danger of unfair prejudice inherent in its admission,” Flaum wrote.

But under plain error review, Ramirez-Fuentes hasn’t shown probable acquittal but for the District Court’s error. He confessed to possession of the drugs and guns, and he also admitted he had been given money in exchange for holding on to the drugs, which he hid in his brother’s apartment.

The appellate court rejected Ramirez-Fuentes’ arguments that his imprisonment is unreasonably long and because of his convictions, he will ultimately be deported. The District judge did consider the defendant’s family circumstances when sentencing him and imposed a sentence on the low end of the guideline range. The 7th Circuit saw no reason to overturn the sentence.

 

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  • Tainted jury!
    I realize commenting here is a total waste of time but I am going to do it one more time on the slim chance someone with a brain may read it. This case would not have happened if we kept mexican ilegals out of the country, even Mexicans that are here legally don't want mexican illegals here and if they weren't given amnesty, the drug trade in the U.S. would be greatly reduced. Illegals are law breakers and giving them amnesty promotes criminal activity. It also sets a precedent, if illegal aliens(criminals) get amnesty then all criminals should get amnesty, so unlock the prison cells!

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  1. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

  2. What a fine example of the best of the Hoosier tradition! How sad that the AP has to include partisan snark in the obit for this great American patriot and adventurer.

  3. Why are all these lawyers yakking to the media about pending matters? Trial by media? What the devil happened to not making extrajudicial statements? The system is falling apart.

  4. It is a sad story indeed as this couple has been only in survival mode, NOT found guilty with Ponzi, shaken down for 5 years and pursued by prosecution that has been ignited by a civil suit with very deep pockets wrenched in their bitterness...It has been said that many of us are breaking an average of 300 federal laws a day without even knowing it. Structuring laws, & civilForfeiture laws are among the scariest that need to be restructured or repealed . These laws were initially created for drug Lords and laundering money and now reach over that line. Here you have a couple that took out their own money, not drug money, not laundering. Yes...Many upset that they lost money...but how much did they make before it all fell apart? No one ask that question? A civil suit against Williams was awarded because he has no more money to fight...they pushed for a break in order...they took all his belongings...even underwear, shoes and clothes? who does that? What allows that? Maybe if you had the picture of him purchasing a jacket at the Goodwill just to go to court the next day...his enemy may be satisfied? But not likely...bitterness is a master. For happy ending lovers, you will be happy to know they have a faith that has changed their world and a solid love that many of us can only dream about. They will spend their time in federal jail for taking their money from their account, but at the end of the day they have loyal friends, a true love and a hope of a new life in time...and none of that can be bought or taken That is the real story.

  5. Could be his email did something especially heinous, really over the top like questioning Ind S.Ct. officials or accusing JLAP of being the political correctness police.

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