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U.S. v. SANCHEZ

May 6, 2003

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AGAINST EDGAR SANCHEZ, DEFENDANT.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shira A. Scheindlin, United States District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

On November 27, 2002, defendant Edgar Marino Sanchez made an oral motion to preclude the Government from using at trial statements he made in his November 25, 2002 pro se motion.*fn1 The motion to preclude was denied in an oral ruling on that day. Sanchez now moves, through counsel, for reconsideration of that ruling. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted. The Government is precluded from using the statements contained in Sanchez's pro se motion in its direct case.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On November 25, 2002, approximately two weeks prior to his scheduled trial*fn2 on federal charges of murder, possession of firearms, and conspiracy to distribute narcotics, Sanchez mailed a pro se letter motion to the Court and Government seeking an evidentiary hearing on the Government's refusal to offer him a cooperation agreement and file a motion to reduce his sentence pursuant to Section 5K1.1 of the United States Sentencing Guidelines.*fn3 With his motion, Sanchez filed an affidavit setting forth statements he allegedly made to the Government under the protection of a proffer agreement. See 11/18/02 Affidavit in Support of Sanchez's Application for an Evidentiary Hearing ("Sanchez Aff."), Ex. A to 4/7/03 Letter to the Court from Timothy J. Treanor and David M. Rody, Assistant United States Attorneys ("Govt. Ltr."). The affidavit included a detailed account of Sanchez's confession to his participation in the murder with which he is charged. See Sanchez Aff. at 5-7.

Shortly thereafter, the Government advised the Court and defense counsel of its intention to use Sanchez's statements in the pro se motion against him at trial. See 11/27/02 Transcript of Pre-Trial Conference ("11/27/02 Tr.") at 2. In response, defense counsel moved to withdraw the motion as improvidently filed and requested that the Court direct the Government to return the defendant's letter and affidavit and preclude the Government from using the statements contained therein. See id. at 9-10. Defense counsel argued, in the alternative, that the Court should find that the statements are covered under the office immunity agreement and thereby bar their use at trial. See id. at 10. After hearing argument, I deemed the pro se motion a post-trial sentencing motion to be docketed at a later date, but held that the sworn statements contained therein could be admitted as party admissions.*fn4 See id. at 11.

By letter dated March 25, 2003, defense counsel sought reconsideration of the decision permitting the Government to offer these statements at trial. See 3/25/03 Letter to the Court from Neil B. Checkman, counsel for Sanchez ("Def. Ltr."). On April 7, 2003, the Government submitted a letter brief in response to Sanchez's motion. See Govt. Ltr. The Court heard oral argument on the motion on April 8, 2003. See 4/8/03 Transcript of Pre-trial Conference ("4/8/03 Tr.").

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A motion for reconsideration is governed by Local Rule 6.3 and is appropriate where a court overlooks "controlling decisions or factual matters that were put before it on the underlying motion . . . and which, had they been considered, might have reasonably altered the result before the court." Range Road Music, Inc. v. Music Sales Corp., 90 F. Supp.2d 390, 392 (S.D.N.Y. 2000) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see also Shrader v. CSX Transp., Inc., 70 F.3d 255, 257 (2d Cir. 1995) ("The standard for granting . . . a motion [for reconsideration] is strict, and reconsideration will generally be denied unless the moving party can point to controlling decisions or data that the court overlooked — matters, in other words, that might reasonably be expected to alter the conclusion reached by the court."). Alternatively, a motion for reconsideration may be granted to "correct a clear error or prevent manifest injustice." Doe v. New York City Dep't of Soc. Servs., 709 F.2d 782, 789 (2d Cir. 1983). Local Rule 6.3 should be "narrowly construed and strictly applied so as to avoid repetitive arguments on issues that have been considered fully by the Court." Dellefave v. Access Temps., Inc., No. 99 Civ. 6098, 2001 WL 286771, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 22, 2001); see also In re Houbigant, Inc., 914 F. Supp. 997, 1001 (S.D.N.Y. 1996) (a Local Rule 6.3 motion "is not a motion to reargue those issues already considered when a party does not like the way the original motion was resolved"); Carolco Pictures, Inc. v. Sirota, 700 F. Supp. 169, 170 (S.D.N.Y. 1988) (purpose of Local Rule 6.3 is to "ensure the finality of decisions and to prevent the practice of a losing party examining a decision and then plugging the gaps of a lost motion with additional matters").

III. DISCUSSION

A. Manifest Injustice Would Result Absent Reconsideration

Defense counsel argues that this Court should reconsider its bench ruling because "[u]pon reflection, it appears that the arguments made by him orally in court understated the defendant's position on this issue." Def. Ltr. (raising, for the first time, arguments under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments). He does not contend that the Court overlooked facts or law before it. While the development of new or more persuasive legal theories is generally not a proper basis for reconsideration, see 4200 Avenue K LLC v. Fishman, No. 00 Civ. 8814, 2001 WL 498402, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. May 10, 2001), reconsideration is warranted here to prevent manifest injustice.

Defense counsel was in the midst of a lengthy criminal trial when his client made the pro se motion at issue here. Immediately thereafter, the Government announced its intention to use the statements contained in the motion against the defendant. With trial in the instant action only two weeks away, defense counsel was compelled to respond without sufficient time to analyze and research the issue. As a result, he argued two bases for exclusion without providing citations to law or lengthy discussion. Having now had several months to consider the issue, for which there is no direct precedent, defense counsel seeks to raise constitutional challenges to the admissibility of the statements. To deny him the opportunity to raise such grounds because they were not raised before would be grossly unfair given the circumstances under which the prior motion was made and the severely prejudicial nature of the evidence at issue.*fn5 Sanchez's motion for reconsideration is therefore granted.

B. Sanchez's Sixth Amendment Rights Were Violated

The Sixth Amendment states that "[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall . . . have the right to have Assistance of Counsel for his defense." U.S. Const. amend. VI. The purpose of the Sixth Amendment "is to assure that in any criminal prosecutio[n], the accused shall not be left to his own devices in facing the `prosecutorial forces of organized society.'" Moran v. Burbine, 475 U.S. 412, 430 (1986) (quoting Maine v. Moulton, 474 U.S. 159, 170 (1985)). Where a defendant avails himself of the right to counsel, intentional government intrusion into the attorney-client relationship violates the Sixth Amendment. See Massiah v. United States, 377 U.S. 201 (1964). The defendant bears ...


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