63 F.3d 1342 (5th Cir. 1995), 93-7388, United States v. Flores

Docket Nº:93-7388, 93-7662.
Citation:63 F.3d 1342
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Manuel FLORES, Defendant-Appellant. UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Juan Raul GARZA, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:September 01, 1995
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

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63 F.3d 1342 (5th Cir. 1995)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


Manuel FLORES, Defendant-Appellant.

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


Juan Raul GARZA, Defendant-Appellant.

Nos. 93-7388, 93-7662.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

September 1, 1995

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Richard Hoffman (Court-appointed), Brownsville, TX, for appellant in No. 93-7388.

D.R. Millard, III, Paula Offenhauser, Asst. U.S. Attys., Gaynelle Griffin Jones, U.S. Atty., Houston, TX, in No. 93-7388.

Douglas M. McNabb (Court-appointed), Philip H. Hilder (Court-appointed), Houston, TX, David Bruck, Columbia, SC (Allowed to argue for appellant but not appointed counsel under CJA), Columbia, SC, for appellant in No. 93-7662.

Paula C. Offenhauser, Asst. U.S. Atty., Houston, Gaynelle Griffin Jones, U.S. Atty., Brownsville, TX, for appellee in No. 93-7662.

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

Before DAVIS, SMITH and WIENER, Circuit Judges.

W. EUGENE DAVIS, Circuit Judge:

In this consolidated appeal both Juan Raul Garza and Manuel Flores challenge their convictions and sentences. Juan Raul Garza was convicted of five violations of various drug trafficking laws 1, operating a continuing

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criminal enterprise (CCE) 2, money laundering 3, and three counts of killing in furtherance of a CCE. 4 After a punishment hearing, the same jury recommended a death sentence for the three killings. Accordingly, the court sentenced Garza to death for counts 7, 8, and 9, and to concurrent terms of imprisonment for life (counts 1, 2, and 6), 40 years (counts 3 and 5) and 20 years (counts 4 and 10). Garza challenges both his conviction and his sentence.

At a separate trial, Manuel Flores was convicted of two counts of killing in furtherance of Garza's CCE 5, one count of conspiring to import over 1,000 kilograms of marijuana 6, and one count of possession with intent to distribute over 1,000 kilograms of marijuana 7. Flores was sentenced to life imprisonment for each murder count and to 327 concurrent months' imprisonment for the other counts. We find no reversible error and affirm.


From the early 1980's until 1992, Juan Raul Garza built and controlled an intricate drug trafficking enterprise. Working with friends and associates from the tough neighborhood of his youth, Garza sold thousands of pounds of marijuana in Texas, Louisiana and Michigan, reaping hundreds of thousands of dollars in return. Garza originally bought from a supplier who imported the marijuana into the United States for him, but eventually he sent his own workers into Mexico to buy the drug and drive it across the border.

Garza occasionally suffered setbacks when loads of marijuana or cash were seized by law enforcement agencies. In addition to putting a dent in Garza's profit margin, these incidents made him suspicious that certain of his workers and associates were cooperating with the police. Being the object of Garza's mistrust was not a healthy condition--as the victims of Garza's three murder convictions would attest.

Gilberto Matos was the first of the three to be killed. Matos was an associate of Erasmo De La Fuente, a drug smuggler who worked with Garza. Garza suspected that De La Fuente had tipped off the police about a 1,350 pound shipment of marijuana that had been seized from one of Garza's storage houses. Garza commissioned some of his workers to murder De La Fuente, but they ran into trouble because De La Fuente was continually surrounded by a small entourage, which included Matos. When his patience wore thin, Garza ordered Manuel Flores and Israel Flores to break into Matos' auto repair shop and lie in wait for either De La Fuente or Matos. If only Matos appeared, they were to kill him as a forewarning to De La Fuente. When the unlucky Matos arrived at his shop alone, Israel and Manuel made him lie face down on the floor and waited about 45 minutes in case De La Fuente might show up. When their wait proved fruitless, Manuel shot Matos in the back of the head. For their work, Garza paid Israel and Manuel with cash and a car.

But Garza did not abandon his plans to murder De La Fuente. Five months later, Garza supplied Israel Flores and Jesus Flores with guns and took them to De La Fuente's nightclub to kill him. 8 Nervous, Israel consumed too much liquor to help with the murder and had to be dropped off in an alley. Jesus picked up Manuel Flores and they went back to the nightclub. When De

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La Fuente left the club and got into his car, Manuel shot him twice through the driver's window. Jesus fired shots into the air to distract the police from chasing Manuel, hid in a ditch for a few hours, then called Garza, who picked him up. Garza paid each of the Flores brothers $10,000. The third victim was Thomas Rumbo. After surveillance officers watched Rumbo help load marijuana into a trailer, they stopped him and told him what they had seen. Rumbo agreed to cooperate and turned the entire 360 pound shipment over to the officers. Rumbo tried to disguise his infidelity by cutting a hole in the fence surrounding the trailer and telling one of Garza's associates that the drugs had been stolen. Not fooled, Garza figured that Rumbo had stolen his merchandise and went directly to Rumbo's house, taking two of his workers with him. Rumbo reluctantly got into Garza's pickup truck and they drove to another worker's house, where Garza picked up a gun. They stopped again at Jesus Flores' house and Jesus, who owed Garza money for cocaine, volunteered to go along. All five got into Jesus' car and they drove around while Jesus interrogated Rumbo. Rumbo stuck to his story, so they drove out to a rural farm road and Garza told Rumbo that he knew Rumbo had taken the marijuana. Rumbo was told to get out of the car and to walk home. Rumbo protested that he was wearing new shoes but then climbed out. Garza shot Rumbo in the back of the head and Rumbo fell back into the car. Garza and Jesus lugged Rumbo's body out into the brush and Garza shot him four more times.

Gradually, law enforcement agents tightened the net around Garza's operations. They tapped Garza's phone and surveilled his activities, seized more loads of drugs and money, arrested some of his workers and converted others into informants. At one point, Garza himself was arrested after making a delivery to an undercover agent. In February 1992, the U.S. Customs Service mounted a sweeping interstate offensive, using an assault helicopter, hundreds of agents and a S.W.A.T. team to secure and search the homes of Garza and his workers. As a result of this raid, most of Garza's associates were indicted and arrested. Garza himself fled to Mexico and could not be found.

The authorities finally located Garza when he ran low on money and phoned one of his Michigan associates to arrange a sale. Unknown to Garza, this person was cooperating with the government and allowed agents to tape record his conversations with Garza. Agents traced the calls and contacted the Mexican government, which apprehended Garza and turned him over to the U.S. Customs Service.

Following the February 1992 raid, Garza and fifteen of his co-conspirators were originally indicted with two drug trafficking counts. While Garza was a fugitive, the government made plea agreements with most of these co-conspirators. In exchange for their testimony against Garza, the government allowed them to plead to lesser charges and promised to recommend substantially reduced sentences. After the plea agreements, Garza was reindicted with the ten counts described above. Several months before Garza's trial, Manuel Flores was tried and convicted of the murders of Gilberto Matos and Erasmo De La Fuente.

We turn now to a consideration of the issues Garza raises in this appeal.


As required by 21 U.S.C. Sec. 848, Garza's trial was divided into a guilt phase and a punishment phase. Garza raises several complaints about both phases of his trial; we will address the guilt phase issues first.


    For several reasons, Garza maintains that the district court conducted voir dire in such a way as to deprive him of critical information about the potential jurors' views on capital punishment. The Supreme Court has recently reminded us that:

    Voir dire is conducted under the supervision of the court and a great deal must, of necessity, be left to its sound discretion. Even so, part of the guaranty of a defendant's right to an impartial jury is an adequate voir dire to identify unqualified jurors. Voir dire plays a critical function in assuring the criminal defendant that his

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    [constitutional] right to an impartial jury will be honored.

    Hence, the exercise of [the trial court's] discretion, and the restriction upon inquiries at the request of counsel, [are] subject to the essential demands of fairness.

    Morgan v. Illinois, 504 U.S. 719, 729-30, 112 S.Ct. 2222, 2230, 119 L.Ed.2d 492, 503 (1992). On appeal, we will not disturb the scope and content of voir dire without a showing that there was insufficient questioning to allow defense counsel to exercise a reasonably knowledgeable right of challenge. United States v. Shannon, 21 F.3d 77, 82 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 115 S.Ct. 260, 130 L.Ed.2d 180 (1994); United States v. Rodriguez, 993 F.2d 1170, 1176 (5th Cir.1993), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 114 S.Ct. 1547, 128 L.Ed.2d 197...

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