Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, January 4, 2024


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Two Warnings to Suspect Spawned Need to Make Choice, Not Confusion, Ninth Circuit Holds


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday affirmed the conviction of a man for attempting to sneak into the U.S. unlawfully, rejecting his contention that the Miranda warning he received was negated by an advisement that speaking up could pave the way for a grant of asylum.

Judge Kenneth K. Lee authored the opinion. It upholds Mario Gonzalez-Godinez’s conviction for attempted illegal entry.

The defendant was caught by Border Patrol agents crawling near a fence on the U.S.-Mexican border. An agent administered a Miranda warning and also warned that his participation in a post-arrest interview could be his only chance to claim asylum.

“While these two warnings may have posed difficult decisions for Gonzalez, they are neither contradictory nor confusing,” Lee wrote, adding:

“Criminal defendants often face a fork in the road with potential peril on either path. The record suggests that Gonzalez understood his rights, and Gonzalez’s gambit was to talk in hopes of seeking asylum, despite the risks. We thus hold that the government did not need to provide further clarification to the Miranda warnings.”

Lee elaborated that the statement that Gonzalez had a right to remain silent was true and the statement that he needed top speak up if he wanted to claim asylum was also true.

“In short, the two warnings Gonzalez received were not confusing,” the jurist wrote.

The defendant also contended that the corpus delicti was not established because the prosecution did not produce corroboration of his admission that he was an alien.

 Lee said that “[t]he corpus delicti doctrine recognizes that people sometimes confess to crimes they did not commit, and thus precludes the government from proving its case using only a confession” but that “if there is ‘some’ independent evidence to corroborate the confession, corpus delicti is satisfied.”

He declared:

“The government here provided enough independent evidence to corroborate that Gonzalez was a Mexican citizen….[C]ircumstantial evidence of his behavior at the border supports his confession: Gonzalez was either sliding away from a partially deconstructed border fence or hiding in the nearby brush early in the morning….And the conditions under which Agent Hewitt discovered him—in a remote, easy-to-cross area just a few miles from the port-of-entry that turned Gonzalez away—match the ‘very specific details’ of his confession….Altogether, this evidence supports Gonzalez’s confession that he is a Mexican citizen who unlawfully entered the United States.”

The case is United States v. Gonzalez-Godinez, 21-50031.


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