United States v. Gutierrez De Lopez, No. 13-2141 (10th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
After a sting operation involving two confidential informants and substantial audio and video surveillance, federal law enforcement officers caught Jesus Cabral-Ramirez ("Mr. Cabral") and Defendant-Appellant Maria Gutierrez de Lopez ("Ms. Gutierrez") attempting to transport an undocumented alien from El Paso, Texas to Denver, Colorado. A federal grand jury indicted Ms. Gutierrez on one count of conspiring to transport undocumented aliens. At trial, the Government elicited testimony from Border Patrol Agent Brian Knoll about the immigration status of the individual Ms. Gutierrez allegedly conspired to smuggle. Agent Knoll also provided expert testimony that transporting undocumented aliens away from U.S./Mexico border regions to the interior of the United States significantly reduced the odds of apprehension by law enforcement. The confidential government informants testified anonymously about several conversations they had with Ms. Gutierrez tending to support the charges against her. Although the Government provided the defense with the informants’ general criminal backgrounds, compensation records from federal agencies, and immigration status, it did not disclose their actual identities. Defense counsel cross-examined both witnesses in light of the disclosures provided by the Government, but was unable to conduct adequate independent pre-trial investigation. The jury convicted Ms. Gutierrez as charged, and the district court sentenced her to three years of probation. She appealed, arguing: (1) Agent Knoll’s testimony about the smuggled individual’s immigration status introduced inadmissible testimonial hearsay in violation of the Federal Rules of Evidence and the Confrontation Clause; (2) Agent Knoll’s expert testimony about the alien-smuggling trade was not helpful to the jury under Federal Rule of Evidence 702(a); and (3) the Government’s use of anonymous testimony violated the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed.