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United States v. Sanchez

United States District Court, D. Montana, Billings Division

November 26, 2018




         Defendant Dimarzio Swade Sanchez was convicted of First Degree Murder for the death of R.R., who was found strangled and burned in a field within the exterior boundaries of the Crow Indian Reservation. Sanchez has moved for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence, Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), and Arizona v. Youngblood, 488 U.S. 51 (1988). After reviewing the trial transcript (cited as "Tr."), hearing transcript on the motion for a new trial (cited as "Mot."), and the exhibits, the Court denies the motion.

         I. Background

         A. Murder of R.R.

         The day R.R. was murdered, in mid-April 2016, Dimarzio Sanchez, Frank Sanchez, Larry Sanchez, Angelica 'Jelly' Whiteman, Sarah Firebear, and Judaya Three fingers had been drinking and driving around. (Tr. 70:23-77:2 Judaya; 121:14-122:6 Sarah; 336:8-338:2 Angelica; 434:18-438:9 Frank). The group was drinking heavily enough that they ran out of alcohol by nightfall and decided to go to Kirby's Saloon to get some more. (Tr. 77:15-78:17 Judaya; 122:7-11 Sarah; 340:14-17 Angelica; 438:16-24 Frank). When they arrived at Kirby's Saloon, Dimarzio and Angelica went inside to gamble and buy alcohol; Frank went inside to use the restroom; and Larry, Sarah, and Judaya waited outside with the car. (Tr. 78:19-24 Judaya; 122:7-123:18 Sarah; 340:18-341:4 Angelica; 438:24-439:3 Frank). A few minutes later, Dimarzio and Frank emerged from Kirby's Saloon and joined the group waiting with the car. (Tr. 123:10-18 Sarah; 341:1-9 Angelica; 439:2-20 Frank). Shortly after, Angelica came back to the car with more alcohol and accompanied by R.R. (Tr. 78:18-81:7 Judaya; 123:23-124:11 Sarah; 341:9-345:19 Angelica; 440:1-16 Frank). Angelica told the group that she met R.R. inside, R.R.'s boyfriend had been beating her up, and R.R. needed a ride to Crow. (Tr. 78:19-81:10 Judaya; 123:23-124:14 Sarah; 341:9-345:16 Angelica; 440:1-25 Frank). No. one in the group had met R.R. before. (Tr. 80:25-81:3 Judaya; 123:20-124:2 Sarah; 341:12-14 Angelica; 440:9-12 Frank).

         Dimarzio agreed to give R.R. a ride home and the entire group piled into the car. (Tr. 78:19-81:23 Judaya; 124:23-125:25 Sarah; 345:17-24 Angelica; 440:16-441:15 Frank). At some point, the group stopped at Dimarzio's grandmother's house so Angelica, Judaya, and R.R. could use the restroom. (Tr. 81:22-82:16 Judaya; 125:13-129:2 Sarah; 345:25-346:21 Angelica; 441:19-443:9 Frank). While the group was stopped at the grandmother's house, Dimarzio and Larry got into a fight. (Tr. 82:12-14 Judaya; 129:3-130:14 Sarah; 346:16-347:12 Angelica; 443:10-444:17 Frank). Due to the fight, Larry stayed at the grandmother's house and the rest of the group got into the car and headed toward Crow to drop off R.R. (Tr. 82:15-83:1 Judaya; 130:7-131:9 Sarah; 347:7-16 Angelica; 444:18-24 Frank). Along the way, a fight erupted between Angelica and R.R. over the mention of the name "Rocco," who is the father of Angelica's child and a friend of R.R.'s. (Tr. 83:3-84:9 Judaya; 261:2-22 Sarah; 347:19-349:13 Angelica; 444:21-446:7 Frank). Angelica and R.R. pulled each other's hair and exchanged blows. Either at Angelica's direction or Dimarzio's decision, or a combination of both, Dimarzio turned off the highway down a dirt road known as Castle Rock Road. (Tr. 83:8-84:16 Judaya; 261:4-264:5 Sarah; 348:8-350:5 Angelica; 446:8-446:20 Frank).

         Dimarzio stopped the car a little ways down the road and the entire group got out. (Tr. 85:5-9 Judaya; 263:23-264:23 Sarah; 349:14-350:5 Angelica; 446:9-446:22 Frank). Once out of the car, Angelica and R.R. continued to fight. (Tr, 85:5-25 Judaya; 264:11-25 Sarah; 350:11-351:14 Angelica; 446:14-447:22 Frank). At some point, Dimarzio and Angelica either ordered R.R. to take her clothes off or they ripped them off her. (Tr. 86:1-22 Judaya; 350:11-351:21 Angelica). Dimarzio and Frank told Judaya and Sarah to get back inside the car, which they did. (Tr. 86:23-87:5 Judaya; 264:24-265:11 Sarah).

         Dimarzio pulled out a bandana, told Angelica "I'm only going to show you this once and one time only," or "this is how you do it," crossed the bandana around R.R.'s neck, and began choking her. (Tr. 267:17-24, 269:1-11 Sarah; 355:9-358:7 Angelica; 451:13-452:20 Frank). Dimarzio gave the bandana to Angelica, told her she had to finish it off, and he and Frank got back in the car. (Tr. 355:9-358:7 Angelica; 451:14-452:23 Frank). Angelica wrapped the bandana around R.R.'s neck and choked her until R.R. defecated and went limp. (Tr. 87:25-88:8 Judaya; 269:1-11 Sarah; 356:22-357:10 Angelica; 453:2-453:18 Frank). Angelica came back to the car, crying, saying she'd killed R.R. (Tr. 82:25-88:3 Judaya; 269:1-6 Sarah; 356:23-358:22 Angelica; 453:2-453:18 Frank). Dimarzio and Frank exited the car to check if R.R. was dead, and discovering she was only unconscious, came back to the car and told Angelica, "you only blacked her out." (Tr. 88:1-12 Judaya; 269:1-9 Sarah; 358:17-18 Angelica). Dimarzio popped the trunk and told Frank to get the gas can. (Tr. 369:20-24 Sarah; 358:8-359:4 Angelica; 453:21-454:19 Frank).

         Frank grabbed the gas can out of the trunk and handed it to Dimarzio. (Tr. 358:25-359:4 Angelica; 454:14-19 Frank). Dimarzio drenched R.R. in gasoline and lit her on fire. (Tr. 359:5-10 Angelica). When Dimarzio poured the gasoline over R.R., either Angelica or Frank, or both, were outside with him. (Tr. 88:13-89:13 Judaya; 270:21-271:25 Sarah; 359:5-359:17 Angelica; 455:4-455:19 Frank). Dimarzio and either Angelica or Frank, or all three, came running back to the car, got in, and told Judaya and Sarah not to look back. (Tr. 88:17-89:4 Judaya; 270:21-271:11 Sarah). Both Judaya and Sarah looked back anyway, and saw a fire burning where R.R. was laying. (Tr. 89:3-89:13 Judaya; 271:1-11 Sarah). The group drove off, leaving R.R. to die. (Tr. 89:14-92:11 Judaya; 271:20-277:25 Sarah; 359:12-364:25 Angelica; 456:5-457:24 Frank).

         By chance, several hours later, a rancher stopped off on Castle Rock Road to relieve himself. (Tr. 53:5-54:21). He saw R.R. laying along the road, completely naked in the freezing cold and covered in burns, but miraculously alive. (Tr. 54:22-55:16). After putting a blanket around her and giving her something to drink, the rancher contacted law enforcement for help. (Tr. 55:12-56:1). R.R. was rushed to the emergency room at the Crow hospital where doctors tried to stabilize her. (Tr. 406:21-415:18). She was then life-flighted to the burn unit at the University of Utah. (Tr. 415:11-20). Her condition was critical when she arrived at the Utah burn unit, with severe burns over 40% of her body, including her face, her chest, her back, her arms, and her legs. (Tr. 416:24-417:22). After doctors performed more than twenty life-saving procedures, R.R. died due to complications from her burns. (Tr. 420:4-14, 422:25-423:21; 430:21-25).

         B. Criminal proceedings against Dimarzio, Angelica, and Frank

          On June 20, 2016, a criminal complaint was sworn and arrest warrants were issued for Dimarzio and Angelica. (Doc. 1). On June 22, 2016, Dimarzio and Angelica were arrested. On July 22, 2016, Dimarzio, Angelica, and Frank were indicted for first degree murder and/or aiding abetting first degree murder for the death of R.R. (Doc. 16). Frank was arrested later that day. On March 6, 2017, Frank entered into a plea agreement with the United States, in which he agreed to plead guilty to the superseding information charging him with accessory after the fact and misprision of a felony in exchange for the United States dismissing the indictment against him. (Docs. 111, 112, 114, 116, and 117). On August 8, 2017, Angelica entered into a plea agreement with the United States, in which she agreed to plead guilty to the indictment in exchange for the United States recommending a three level reduction of her offense level under the United States Sentencing Guidelines. (Docs. 159, 160, and 165).

         On December 4, 2017, Dimarzio's jury trial began. (Doc. 249). On December 7, 2017, after a two hour deliberation, the jury returned a guilty verdict against Dimarzio for first degree murder. (Docs. 258 and 259).

         C. Post-trial information

          On December 8, 2017, the day after Dimarzio's trial ended, Ananda Littlebird brought a phone to the Bureau of Indian Affairs office. (Mot. 80:3-82:3; 71:21-72:5; 54:12-56:5). Ananda showed BIA Agent Chansey McMillin a typed note on the phone, which was saved in the phone's calendar under the date "April 16, 2016," and set to reoccur yearly. (Mot. 80:3-82:3; 10:8-14:6; Doc. 307-1; Doc. 324-1). The note stated verbatim:

I should have told them the truth about what I did.. Now I'm full of regret not of what happen but I told them what somewhat happen I was apart of it.. I beat her in the car a bit I kicked her on the side of the head I helped find the gas can. I felt so alone when I found out they got caught

(Mot. 12:12-20; Doc. 307-1). Agent McMillin did not immediately appreciate the relevance of the note because he was not involved in the investigation or case involving R.R.'s murder. (Mot. 78:25-87:14). However, the note seemed peculiar to him so he took a screenshot of the note and told Ananda she should not delete it until he could figure out if it was important. (Mot. 80:8-19). A couple of days later, on December 11, 2017, Agent McMillin showed the screenshot of the note to BIA Agent John Dodd. (Mot. 71:21-72:5). Agent Dodd, due to his involvement in the investigation into R.R.'s death, saw the relevance of the note. (Mot. 71:5- 72:5). He and Agent McMillin attempted to make contact with Ananada at her house, but were unsuccessful. (Mot. 76:5-11; 81:14-20).

         Meanwhile, FBI Agent Aaron Christensen, who was involved in the investigation into R.R.'s death, had also received information about the note. On December 8, 2017, Agent Christensen received a text which contained a screenshot of a Facebook post of the note. (Mot. 33:20-35:1). The Facebook post was made by Ananda. (Mot. 21:17-23:6; 67:6-68:7). Agent Christensen immediately informed the prosecution about the Facebook post and note. (Mot. 35:5-18). A couple of days later, Agent Christensen and Agent Dodd made contact with each other and discussed recovering the phone from Ananda. (Mot. 55:14-23; 76:22-24).

         On December 13, 2017, Agent Christensen recovered the phone and interviewed Ananda. (Mot. 56:24-57:1). Ananda informed Agent Christensen she purchased the phone second-hand from Shauntel Russell and had deleted the Facebook post of the screenshot of the note at her grandmother's instruction. (Mot. 35:21-36:17; 67:1-68:7). Agent Christensen interviewed Shauntel and learned that she also purchased the phone second-hand. (Mot. 36:18-37:8). At that point, Agent Christensen attempted to work backwards through the phone's chain of custody until he came across a person or date related to R.R.'s death. (Mot. 36:8-37:8). At around the same time, Agent Christensen submitted the phone for forensic analysis. (Mot. 56:24-57:25). Eventually, after interviewing multiple people throughout December and January, Agent Christensen reached what he thought was a dead end and turned over his reports and the forensic analysis to the prosecution. (Mot. 36:8-40:10; 60:1-20; Doc. 345 Ex. 1). Agent Christensen believed at least seven different people owned the phone in 2017 and an unknown number prior to that. (Mot. 61:12-19).

         On January 22, 2018, Laura Lonebear contacted defense counsel and told them about the note. (Doc. 303-1 at 1-3). Upon receiving this information, defense counsel contacted the prosecution and asked if the FBI had the phone. (Doc. 303-2). The prosecution responded the FBI had the phone and was currently investigating the matter. (Doc. 303-2). Shortly after, defense counsel requested discovery related to the phone. (Doc. 308 at 1-2). On February 1, 2018, the prosecution provided the defense with an email summary of the FBI's investigation into the phone, but did not turn over Agent Christensen's reports, the forensic analysis, or ...

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