United States v. Valenzuela-Bernal, VALENZUELA-BERNAL

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtREHNQUIST
Citation102 S.Ct. 3440,458 U.S. 858,73 L.Ed.2d 1193
Decision Date02 July 1982
Docket NumberNo. 81-450,VALENZUELA-BERNAL
PartiesUNITED STATES, Petitioner v. Ricardo

458 U.S. 858
102 S.Ct. 3440
73 L.Ed.2d 1193
UNITED STATES, Petitioner

v.

Ricardo VALENZUELA-BERNAL.

No. 81-450.
Argued April 20, 1982.
Decided July 2, 1982.
Syllabus

Respondent was indicted in Federal District Court for transporting one Romero-Morales in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(2), which prohibits the knowing transportation of an alien illegally in the United States who last entered the country within three years prior to the date of the transportation. Two other illegal aliens—who, with Romero-Morales, were passengers in the car being driven by respondent and were apprehended with respondent—were deported after an Assistant United States Attorney concluded that they possessed no evidence material to respondent's prosecution. Romero-Morales was detained to provide a nonhearsay basis for establishing that respondent had violated § 1324(a)(2). The District Court denied respondent's motion to dismiss the indictment on the asserted ground that the deportation of the other passengers deprived him of the opportunity to interview them to determine whether they could aid in his defense and thus violated his Fifth Amendment right to due process and his Sixth Amendment right to compulsory process for obtaining witnesses. Following a bench trial respondent was convicted, but the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that although a constitutional violation occurs only when "the alien's testimony could conceivably benefit the defendant," the "conceivable benefit" test was satisfied without requiring the defendant to explain what beneficial evidence would have been provided by the alien—whenever, as here, the deported alien was an eyewitness to the crime.

Held: Respondent failed to establish a violation of the Fifth or Sixth Amendment. Pp. 863-874.

(a) In cases like this, the Executive Branch's responsibility faithfully to execute Congress' immigration policy of prompt deportation of illegal aliens justifies deportation of illegal-alien witnesses upon the Executive's good-faith determination that they possess no evidence favorable to the defendant in a criminal prosecution. In addition to satisfying such policy, the prompt deportation of such witnesses is justified by practical considerations, including the financial and physical burdens imposed upon the Government in detaining alien eyewitnesses. Pp. 863-866.

(b) Respondent cannot establish a violation of the Sixth Amendment, which guarantees a criminal defendant the right to compulsory process

Page 859

for obtaining witnesses "in his favor," merely by showing that deportation of the aliens deprived him of their testimony. He must at least make some plausible showing of how their testimony would have been both material and favorable to his defense. Cf. Washington v. Texas, 388 U.S. 14, 87 S.Ct. 1920, 18 L.Ed.2d 1019. While a relaxation of the specificity required in showing materiality may be supported by the fact that, because the witnesses were deported, neither respondent nor his attorney had an opportunity to interview the witnesses to determine what favorable information they possessed, this does not afford a basis for wholly dispensing with a showing of materiality. Cf. Roviaro v. United States, 353 U.S. 53, 77 S.Ct. 623, 1 L.Ed.2d 639. Moreover, respondent was present throughout the commission of the crime, and no one knew better than he what the deported witnesses said in his presence that might bear upon whether he knew that Romero-Morales was an illegal alien who had entered the country within the past three years. Pp. 867-871.

(c) At least the same materiality requirement obtains with respect to a due process claim. In order to establish a denial of due process, the acts complained of must be of such quality as necessarily prevents a fair trial. Such an absence of fairness is not made out by the Government's deportation of the witnesses here unless there is some explanation of how their testimony would have been favorable and material. P. 872.

(d) Sanctions against the Government are warranted for deportation of alien witnesses only if there is a reasonable likelihood that the testimony could have affected the judgment of the trier of fact. In this case, respondent made no effort to explain what material, favorable evidence the deported aliens would have provided for his defense. Pp. 872-874.

647 F.2d 72, reversed.

Carter G. Phillips, Washington, D. C., for petitioner.

Eugene G. Iredale, San Diego, Cal., for respondent.

Page 860

Justice REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

Respondent, a citizen of Mexico, was indicted in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California for transporting one Romero-Morales in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(2). That section generally prohibits the knowing transportation of an alien illegally in the United States who last entered the country within three years prior to the date of the transportation.1 Respondent was found guilty after a bench trial, but his conviction was overturned by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. That court held that the action of the Government in deporting two aliens other than Romero-Morales violated respondent's right under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution to compulsory process, and his right under the Fifth Amendment to due process of law. We granted certiorari in order to review the Court of Appeals' application of these constitutional provisions to this case, 454 U.S. 963, 102 S.Ct. 501, 70 L.Ed.2d 377 (1981),2 and we now reverse.

I

Respondent entered the United States illegally on March 23, 1980, and was taken by smugglers to a house in Escondido, Cal. Six days later, in exchange for his not having to pay the smugglers for bringing him across the border, respondent agreed to drive himself and five other passengers to Los Angeles. When the car which respondent was driving

Page 861

approached the Border Patrol checkpoint at Temecula, agents noticed the five passengers lying down inside the car and motioned to respondent to stop. Respondent accelerated through the checkpoint and was chased at high speed for approximately one mile before stopping the car and fleeing on foot along with the five passengers. Three of the passengers and respondent were apprehended by the Border Patrol agents.

Following their arrest, respondent and the other passengers were interviewed by criminal investigators. Respondent admitted his illegal entry into the country and explained his reason for not stopping at the checkpoint: "I was bringing the people [and] I already knew I had had it—too late—it was done." App. 27. The three passengers also admitted that they were illegally in the country and each identified respondent as the driver of the car. Id., at 66. An Assistant United States Attorney concluded that the passengers possessed no evidence material to the prosecution or defense of respondent for transporting illegal aliens, and two of the passengers were deported to Mexico. The third, Enrique Romero-Morales, was detained to provide a nonhearsay basis for establishing that respondent had transported an illegal alien in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(2).

Respondent moved in the District Court to dismiss the indictment, claiming that the Government's deportation of the two passengers other than Romero-Morales violated his Fifth Amendment right to due process of law and his Sixth Amendment right to compulsory process for obtaining favorable witnesses. He claimed that the deportation had deprived him of the opportunity to interview the two remaining passengers to determine whether they could aid in his defense. Although he had been in their presence throughout the allegedly criminal activity, respondent made no attempt to explain how the deported passengers could assist him in proving that he did not know that Romero-Morales was an illegal alien who had last entered the United States within the preceding three years.

Page 862

At least one evidentiary hearing was held on respondent's motion, at which Romero-Morales testified that he had not spoken to respondent during the entire time that they were together. At the same hearing the Government offered, without obtaining agreement by respondent, to stipulate that none of the passengers in the car told respondent that they were in the United States illegally. The District Court denied respondent's motion and, following a bench trial on stipulated evidence, found respondent guilty as charged.3

The Court of Appeals reversed the conviction. The court relied upon the rule, first stated in United States v. Mendez-Rodriguez, 450 F.2d 1 (CA9 1971), that the Government violates the Fifth and Sixth Amendments when it deports alien witnesses before defense counsel has an opportunity to interview them. 647 F.2d 72, 73-75 (1981). Although it stated that a constitutional violation occurs only when "the alien's testimony could conceivably benefit the defendant," id., at 74, the court's application of the "conceivable benefit" test demonstrated that the test will be satisfied whenever the deported aliens were eyewitnesses to the crime.4 Respond-

Page 863

ent's failure to explain what beneficial evidence would have been provided by the two passengers was thus inapposite, for "the deported aliens were eyewitnesses to, and active participants in, the crime charged, thus establishing a strong possibility that they could have provided material and relevant information concerning the events constituting the crime." Id., at 75. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals held that respondent's motion to dismiss the indictment should have been granted by the District Court.

II

We think that the decision of the Court of Appeals in this case, and some of the additional arguments made in support of it by respondent, misapprehend the varied nature of the duties assigned to the Executive Branch by Congress. The Constitution imposes on the President the duty to "take Care...

To continue reading

Request your trial
1433 practice notes
  • Andrews v. Davis, Nos. 09–99012
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • 5 Agosto 2015
    ...how his alibi witnesses would have testified, because he needed only show their testimony would be material and favorable to his defense. 458 U.S. 858, 867, 102 S.Ct. 3440, 73 L.Ed.2d 1193 (1982). Therefore, Andrews claims, the state court erred in rejecting his Strickland claim. The distri......
  • LaDuke v. Nelson, Nos. 83-3608
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • 10 Junio 1985
    ...of the nation's immigration laws has been delegated by Congress to the Executive Branch. See United States v. Valenzuela-Bernal, 458 U.S. 858, 864, 102 S.Ct. 3440, 3444, 73 L.Ed.2d 1193 (1982). Nonetheless, the federal judiciary has been vested with the ultimate authority to determine the c......
  • Harris v. Thompson, No. 12–1088.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit
    • 18 Octubre 2012
    ...Harris must show that (1) the testimony would have been “both material and favorable” to her defense, United States v. Valenzuela–Bernal, 458 U.S. 858, 867, 102 S.Ct. 3440, 73 L.Ed.2d 1193 (1982), and (2) that the exclusion was “arbitrary” or “disproportionate” to the evidentiary purpose ad......
  • U.S. v. Campbell, No. 87-2013
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • 9 Enero 1989
    ...some plausible showing of how their testimony would [be] both material and favorable to his defense." United States v. Valenzuela-Bernal, 458 U.S. 858, 867 & n. 7, 102 S.Ct. 3440, 3446 & n. 7, 73 L.Ed.2d 1193 (1982); see Washington v. Texas, 388 U.S. 14, 16, 87 S.Ct. 1920, 1921, 18 L.Ed.2d ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1435 cases
  • Andrews v. Davis, Nos. 09–99012
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • 5 Agosto 2015
    ...how his alibi witnesses would have testified, because he needed only show their testimony would be material and favorable to his defense. 458 U.S. 858, 867, 102 S.Ct. 3440, 73 L.Ed.2d 1193 (1982). Therefore, Andrews claims, the state court erred in rejecting his Strickland claim. The distri......
  • LaDuke v. Nelson, Nos. 83-3608
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • 10 Junio 1985
    ...of the nation's immigration laws has been delegated by Congress to the Executive Branch. See United States v. Valenzuela-Bernal, 458 U.S. 858, 864, 102 S.Ct. 3440, 3444, 73 L.Ed.2d 1193 (1982). Nonetheless, the federal judiciary has been vested with the ultimate authority to determine the c......
  • Harris v. Thompson, No. 12–1088.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit
    • 18 Octubre 2012
    ...Harris must show that (1) the testimony would have been “both material and favorable” to her defense, United States v. Valenzuela–Bernal, 458 U.S. 858, 867, 102 S.Ct. 3440, 73 L.Ed.2d 1193 (1982), and (2) that the exclusion was “arbitrary” or “disproportionate” to the evidentiary purpose ad......
  • U.S. v. Campbell, No. 87-2013
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • 9 Enero 1989
    ...some plausible showing of how their testimony would [be] both material and favorable to his defense." United States v. Valenzuela-Bernal, 458 U.S. 858, 867 & n. 7, 102 S.Ct. 3440, 3446 & n. 7, 73 L.Ed.2d 1193 (1982); see Washington v. Texas, 388 U.S. 14, 16, 87 S.Ct. 1920, 1921, 18 L.Ed.2d ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Equalizing Access to Evidence: Criminal Defendants and the Stored Communications Act.
    • United States
    • Yale Law Journal Vol. 131 Nbr. 5, March 2022
    • 1 Marzo 2022
    ...102, 139-40 (1996) (Rehnquist, C.J., dissenting). (184.) See Wexler, supra note 182, at 2737. (185.) United States v. Valenzuela-Bernal, 458 U.S. 858, 867 (1982). (186.) See, e.g.. Pierce, 785 F.3d at 841; Facebook, Inc. v. Superior Ct. (Touchstone), 471 P.3d 383, 387 (Cal. 2020); Facebook,......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT