United States v. Contento-Pachon

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, 1984.

723 F.2d 691.

Dressler, pp. 553-556

 

Facts: The defendant was forced to smuggle cocaine into the U.S.At trial, evidence of duress or necessity was suppressed, and he was convicted.He appealed, saying that he should have been allowed to present testimony in support of a duress or necessity defense.

 

Issue: Was there sufficient evidence of duress to present a triable issue of fact?

 

Rule: The elements of the duress defense are: (1) an immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury, (2) a well-grounded fear that the threat will be carried out, and (3) no reasonable opportunity to escape the threatened harm.

 

Analysis: The court focuses on the first and third elements of duress.The defendant presented evidence that showed that he believed he was being watched the whole time he was doing the smuggling.The court finds that there was enough evidence of this that a factfinder could reasonably conclude that the threat was immediate.

 

The defendant also claims that he had no reasonable opportunity to escape because he thought the police were corrupt and fleeing would be too dangerous.The court also finds that there is enough evidence for the issue of whether escape was reasonable to the factfinder.

 

On the other hand, the court upholds the decision of the trial court to exclude the defense of necessity.The court finds that necessity doesnít apply when the allegedly necessary action was precipitated by human action rather than some physical force of nature.

 

The dissenting judge would not have allowed either defense, and accepts the district courtís rationale for refusing duress.I think this is bogus, especially the part about going to the cops.The way the cops are in Colombia, there might as well be no cops at all.This should be allowed to come out at trial.

 

Conclusion: The conviction was reversed.(Was a new trial ordered?I guess you canít.)

 

Back to Duress

Back to Casebook Notes