United States v. Morales-Sanabria, No. 09-2298 (1st Cir. 2011)Annotate this Case
A commercial fisherman was convicted on multiple drug trafficking counts and sentenced to 50 years' imprisonment based on three shipments of drugs, two of cocaine and a third of cocaine, heroin, and ecstasy, by boat from the Dominican Republic into Puerto Rico. The prosecution rested almost exclusively on testimony by three cooperating witnesses, two of whom identified defendant as the individual who facilitated the delivery of the drugs from boat to shore. The First Circuit remanded for a new trial because of a number of evidentiary errors. Applying the "cumulative error" doctrine, the court noted that there was no physical evidence linking defendant to the drugs or delivery boats and no video or photographic surveillance or audio recordings. The erroneous ruling substantially interfered with the defenses' ability to impeach the cooperating witnesses and establish mistaken identity.