United States v. Torres, No. 20-50092 (5th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
Ramirez was the target of a drug trafficking investigation, and wiretaps were placed on his phones, providing access to voice and text conversations. Torres was a member of the Latin Kings, and purportedly a methamphetamine supplier for Ramirez. Torres and nine co-defendants were charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1) & (b)(1)(A) and 846.
During the first and second days of Torres's trial, the government presented the testimonies of multiple witnesses. On the second day, the last government witness finished at 7:09 P.M. Defense counsel informed the court that Torres intended to testify, expressing that it would take “several hours” to complete direct examination. Torres took the stand at 7:13 P.M. After approximately 50 minutes of direct examination, the judge declared an overnight recess and dismissed the jury. The court instructed Torres: You are to talk to no one about your testimony. The judge told defense counsel: You may not speak to him. Now that he’s started his testimony, you may not consult with him anymore.
Convicted, Torres was given a within-Guidelines sentence of 240 months of imprisonment. The Fifth Circuit reversed. Torres’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel was violated when he was barred from speaking with his attorney during an overnight recess.