United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Corpus Christi Division
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT EDUARDO RUIZ-CORTEZ'S
MOTION TO DISMISS
GONZALES RAMOS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
United States accused Eduardo Ruiz-Cortez (Defendant) of
violating its laws, charging him with illegally transporting
an undocumented alien within the country and conspiring to do
the same. D.E. 41. The United States, however, deported a
potential defense witness-in violation of court order-before
defense counsel could elicit trial testimony or even conduct
a witness interview. Defendant moved to dismiss his
superseding indictment with prejudice, citing violations of
his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights. D.E. 47. For the following
reasons, his motion is GRANTED. D.E. 47.
to the government, on June 8, 2019, Defendant drove a black
Honda Civic with two passengers to the U.S. Border Patrol
Checkpoint near Sarita, Texas. The passengers were Fernando
Juarez-Gonzalez-the undocumented alien who Defendant is
accused of transporting-and one other unnamed person. A
Border Patrol Agent questioned the passengers and then
detained everyone in the car after Juarez-Gonzalez admitted
he was in the U.S. illegally. Sometime after being detained,
Juarez-Gonzales “admitted” to the government that
he had previously informed Defendant he was in the country
illegally. D.E. 40, p. 4.
Diaz-Rueda was not in the black Honda Civic or at the Sarita
checkpoint that day. According to the government, he was in
federal custody, having been charged with illegal re-entry
into the United States. Nonetheless, Defendant's attorney
later came to believe Diaz-Rueda could be a “key
witness, ” and attempted to secure his interview and
trial testimony. D.E. 23. Notably, the prosecutor assisted
defense counsel in locating Diaz-Rueda. After one attempt to
secure Diaz-Rueda's testimony failed for procedural
reasons, defense counsel filed an unopposed motion for an
arrest warrant on July 23, 2019. D.E. 27.
motion, counsel argued Diaz-Rueda could “testify to
some exculpating information.” D.E. 27, p. 1. As
explained in defense counsel's sworn affidavit, Defendant
previously encountered Diaz-Rueda at the Brooks County
Detention Center in Falfurrias, Texas. D.E. 27-2, p. 1.
Diaz-Rueda told Defendant he previously met Juarez-Gonzales
while both were being held at the Corpus Christi Border
Patrol Station. D.E. 27-2, p. 1. Juarez-Gonzales told
Diaz-Rueda that, if he was going to jail, he was “not
going to go down alone.” D.E. 27-2, p. 1.
claimed this showed Juarez-Gonzales had the “motive and
intent” to falsely claim Defendant knew Juarez-Gonzalez
had illegally entered the country and intended to
“smuggle” Juarez-Gonzalez. D.E. 27-2, p. 1.
Defendant needed an arrest warrant because Diaz-Rueda would
“most likely be deported soon, ” as he recently
pleaded guilty to illegal reentry and was being held by
Immigration and Customs Enforcement at its Montgomery
Processing Center in Conroe, Texas. D.E. 27.
Judge Janice Ellington granted the defense's motion on
the day after it was filed, and also issued a writ of habeas
corpus ad testificandum. D.E. 29, 30. Her order required that
Diaz-Rueda be arrested and detained as a material witness for
Defendant pending trial or unless otherwise ordered by the
court. D.E. 29. The writ commanded the warden of the
Montgomery Processing Center to deliver Diaz-Rueda to the
U.S. Marshal for a hearing on August 21, 2019 and for trial
on September 9, 2019. D.E. 30. In anticipation of these
proceedings, Diaz-Rueda was later appointed counsel.
the writ's commands to the warden, Diaz-Rueda never
appeared at the August 21 hearing. The government had
deported him on July 31-one week after Judge Ellington
granted Defendant's motion and issued the writ.
Defendant Ruiz-Cortez's Motion to Dismiss
argues the government's deportation of Diaz-Rueda
violated his Fifth Amendment right to due process and his
Sixth Amendment right to compulsory process. For its part,
the government primarily argues Defendant cannot show the
deportation caused any prejudice, citing United States v.
Valenzuela-Bernal, 458 U.S. 858 (1982). Beyond that, it
makes two secondary arguments. It claims it assisted defense
counsel in locating Diaz-Rueda. And it says, “there is
no reasonable doubt in this case.” D.E. 40, p. 4. For
the following reasons, these arguments fail, and Defendant
has shown there is a “reasonable likelihood”
Diaz-Rueda's testimony could have affected a jury's
judgment. Valenzuela-Bernal, 458 U.S. at 874.
outset, the government's secondary arguments lack any
merit. Its claim that “there is no reasonable doubt in
this case” ignores two of our Constitution's
fundamental guarantees: the presumption of innocence and
trial by jury. D.E. 40, p. 4. The prosecution also misses the
mark in arguing it helped defense counsel locate Diaz-Rueda.
While commendable, this fails to address the point of
defendant's motion. It is not based on some unreasonable
delay in locating Diaz-Rueda, but upon his deportation in
violation of court order.
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