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Santos v. Thomas

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

March 9, 2015

JOSE LUIS MUNOZ SANTOS, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
LINDA R. THOMAS, Warden, Respondent-Appellee

Argued and Submitted, Pasadena, California: November 20, 2014.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California. D.C. No. 2:11-cv-06330-MMM. Margaret M. Morrow, District Judge, Presiding.

SUMMARY[**]

Habeas Corpus/Extradition

The panel affirmed the district court's denial of habeas relief from a magistrate judge's order certifying Jose Munoz Santos' extradition to Mexico on kidnapping charges.

The panel held that the magistrate judge, serving as the extradition court, properly excluded from its probable cause determination evidence that two witnesses, who had provided key inculpatory statements, later recanted and stated their statements were obtained by torture. The panel explained that in a case like this one, where torture allegations are inextricably intertwined with the witnesses' recantations, the evidence was properly excluded because its consideration would have required a mini-trial on whether the witnesses' initial statements were procured by torture.

The panel concluded that the district court properly denied the habeas petition because the extradition court's probable cause determination was supported by competent evidence.

Matthew B. Larsen (argued), Deputy Federal Public Defender, and Sean K. Kennedy, Federal Public Defender, Los Angeles, California, for Petitioner-Appellant.

Aron Ketchel (argued), and Robert E. Dugdale, Chief, Criminal Division, Assistant United States Attorneys, and André Birotte Jr., United States Attorney, Los Angeles, California, for Respondent-Appellee.

Before: Mary M. Schroeder and Jacqueline H. Nguyen, Circuit Judges, and Jack Zouhary, District Judge.[*]

OPINION

Page 1022

Jacqueline H. Nguyen, Circuit Judge.

Jose Munoz Santos (" Munoz" ) appeals the district court's denial of habeas relief from a magistrate judge's order certifying his extradition to Mexico on kidnapping charges. He argues that the magistrate judge erroneously excluded evidence that two witnesses, who had provided key inculpatory statements, later recanted and stated that their statements were obtained by torture. We find no error. The evidence of torture was, as Munoz concedes, inextricably intertwined with the witnesses' recantations. As a result, considering the witnesses' claims of torture would have required the magistrate judge, serving as the extradition court, to weigh conflicting evidence and make credibility determinations. Under these circumstances, the extradition court properly excluded this evidence. We affirm.

BACKGROUND

A. Evidence Supporting the Extradition Certification

In support of its extradition request, the government of Mexico provided statements from five witnesses implicating Munoz in the alleged kidnapping for ransom of Dignora Hermosillo Garcia (" Hermosillo" ) and her two children. According to Hermosillo, she and her two young daughters were abducted from their home in the evening of August 18, 2005, by a masked man holding a gun. She later identified Fausto Librado Rosas Alfaro (" Rosas" ) as the masked gunman. Rosas forced Hermosillo and her children into Hermosillo's jeep and drove them away at high speed. Rosas tugged on his mask as he drove and Hermosillo saw that he had a large mark, like a mole or a scar, on his nose. Rosas asked her for information about her husband's work and daily routine, and later, for her bank card PIN number. At one point, Rosas stopped the vehicle to tape his captives' mouths, hands, and feet. He eventually took one child out of the car and abandoned her, and later did the same to the second child. After more driving, he left Hermosillo tied up by a tree. The younger of Hermosillo's daughters was later found dead. Hermosillo's husband, Roberto Castellanos Meza (" Castellanos" ),

Page 1023

confirmed that his wife and daughters went missing in the evening ...


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