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United States v. Stone

United States District Court, E.D. California

April 8, 2014

SAMUEL STONE, Defendant.


JOHN C. COUGHENOUR, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Defendant's second motion to compel, as amended. (Dkt. Nos. 176 & 244). Having thoroughly considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court finds oral argument unnecessary and hereby GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART the motion for the reasons explained herein.


This death penalty prosecution arises out of the alleged murder of Michael Anita by Defendant Samuel Stone. Defendant has submitted a number of discovery requests to the government. While the parties have commendably managed to resolve most of the remaining discovery disputes on their own, there are six outstanding issues.[1]

Mr. Anita was placed in a cell in the Special Housing Unit ("SHU") with Defendant in April 2003, after Mr. Anita-and, allegedly, an inmate named Angelo Fuentes-participated in an assault on another inmate, named Stephen Jackson, a leader of a rival faction of Native American inmates. Defendant, Mr. Anita, and Mr. Fuentes were all Native Americans. On July 15, 2003, Angelo Fuentes was placed in the same cell as Mr. Anita and Defendant. On July 30, 2003, Mr. Anita was killed, and his body discovered. Defendant took sole responsibility for the killing, while Mr. Fuentes asserted his Fifth Amendment privilege and declined to be interviewed.

Defendant argues[2] that a number of the contested requests are relevant to his theory regarding a motive for the killing of Michael Anita, which implicates Mr. Anita's other cellmate, Angelo Fuentes, who was never charged in this case. This argument applies both to the guilt phase-as Defendant may argue that the actual killer was Mr. Fuentes, and not Defendant-and the penalty phase, as even if Defendant is found by the jury to have participated in the murder, he may be able to argue that he is the less culpable party. Defendant asserts that three documents, discovered relatively recently, support his theory that prison politics were at the root of the killing. First, the "Lepe Memo, " produced by the government in July 2013, states that an inmate told a correctional officer that Mr. Fuentes told the inmate that he-and not Defendant-stabbed Mr. Anita and attempted to cut a tattoo from Mr. Anita's neck. Second, the "Luther Memo, " produced by the government in January 2014, discusses an assault on an inmate named Sidney Sinyella, where Angelo Fuentes was allegedly present at the assault, although another inmate took responsibility for the beating. Finally, the "Cole Memo, " discovered by Defense Counsel but never directly handed over by the government, describes the history of Native American incarceratory politics at Atwater at the time of the Stephen Jackson assault and Mr. Anita's subsequent murder. (Dkt. No. 244 at 5.)


The principles governing discovery in this case have already been clearly laid out in this case, and the Court adopts Judge Austin's explanation of the legal landscape. ( See Dkt. No. 106 at 3-8.) In brief, the government must turn over to Defendant all evidence that is "material to the preparation of the defendant's defense." Fed. R. Crim P. 16(a)(1)(E). Defendant must make a prima facie showing of materiality before he is entitled to obtain the materials he requested. In a death penalty case, the government must turn over not only evidence and information that is material to the defendant's guilt or innocence, but also evidence and information that is material to Defendant's mitigation case.

A. Request 200: The Complete Angelo Fuentes File

Defendant's Request 200 is put forward as follows:

Under an attorneys' eyes only protective order, you have provided us with a mostly unredacted copy of the BOP's Central File for Angelo Fuentes. The only redactions are for the federal pre-sentence investigation report. The file produced, however, contains no materials dated after about July 2005. We request that you provide us with an updated unredacted Central File for Mr. Fuentes pursuant to the same protective order and with the understanding that the pre-sentence investigation report information will be the only redactions. If there are other materials within the file that you believe require redaction, where it is not obvious (such as "social security number:" followed by a redaction), we request that you include information about what is being redacted and the reason for the redaction. Providing the reason for redactions may decrease the need for further litigation.

( See Dkt. No. 205 at 6.) The government argues that no documents in Mr. Fuentes' file after 2005 will show that he was involved in violent incidents. (Dkt. Nos. 205 at 6, 234 at 2-6.) Defendant argues that, because his theory of the case relates to Mr. Fuentes' involvement in Native American incarceratory politics, the requested materials may support Defendant's argument either that Mr. Fuentes alone was involved in the killing, or that he was the primary force behind it but has not been prosecuted. (Dkt. No. 244 at 5-6.)

The Court GRANTS this request and ORDERS that the government turn over the file of ...

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