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United States v. Guay

March 19, 1997

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,

PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

CLAUDE JOSEPH GUAY,

DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,

PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

DANIEL GUAY,

DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeals from the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia, at Danville.

Jackson L. Kiser, Chief District Judge. (CR-95-11-D)

Before WILKINSON, Chief Judge, and RUSSELL and WIDENER, Circuit Judges.

WIDENER, Circuit Judge

Argued: November 1, 1996

Affirmed and remanded in part by published opinion. Judge Widener wrote the opinion, in which Chief Judge Wilkinson and Judge Russell concur.

OPINION

Claude and Daniel Guay, both French-speaking Canadians, appeal their convictions following a three-day jury trial. The jury found each defendant guilty of one count of knowingly, intentionally, and unlawfully possessing with the intent to distribute cocaine, as a principal or as an aider and abettor, in violation of 21 U.S.C.Section(s) 841(a)(1) and 18 U.S.C. Section(s) 2. The Guays contend that the district court erred in: (1) refusing to suppress their oral and written statements given to law enforcement officials; (2) rejecting their proposed jury instructions; and (3) allowing the prosecution to cross-examine Claude Guay with assertedly prejudicial questions. Daniel Guay also argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction. We affirm the judgment of the district court, but remand in part.

I.

On January 26, 1995, a tractor trailer being operated by defendant Claude Guay wrecked in Pittsylvania County. The tractor trailer rig overturned during the wreck, and its cargo of watermelons spilled into the median on U.S. Route 29 between Chatham and Gretna, Virginia. When the Virginia State Police arrived, they found only Claude Guay at the accident scene. Daniel Guay, Claude's son and a passenger in the tractor trailer, had left the scene following the accident and walked more than a half mile before a state trooper found him. The trooper returned Daniel to an ambulance waiting at the scene.

During cleanup of the accident scene, eight duffel bags and a box were found, having been in the trailer underneath watermelon boxes. The bags and box contained numerous bricks wrapped in tape and black and yellow plastic. Lab testing subsequently revealed that the bricks contained 180 kilograms of 89% pure cocaine. In addition, seven of Daniel Guay's fingerprints were found on the bricks.

Both defendants sustained injuries in the accident and were taken to the Danville Regional Medical Center in Danville, Virginia. After the defendants' treatment and release, the Virginia State Police transported them to an administrative building in Chatham, Virginia. There, Special Agents Charlie W. Moore and Michael R. Bass of the Virginia State Police interviewed the defendants at 2:07 p.m. on the afternoon of the accident. Before each interview, the defendants executed written Miranda waiver forms printed in English.

After the interviews, the defendants were transported back to the hospital because Daniel Guay's arm, originally thought not to have been broken, was in fact broken. Leaving the hospital a second time, state troopers and agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) transported the defendants to the Virginia State Police post in Danville, Virginia.

Special Agent Mark L. MacKizer of the FBI interviewed Claude Guay in Danville. He first spoke with a technician in the emergency room at the hospital, who informed him that Claude was not on any narcotic or medication that would alter his judgment. Claude also executed another Miranda waiver form written in English before the interview. The interview began at 7:42 p.m. on the evening of the accident and lasted for approximately two hours.

After the interview, MacKizer spoke with a registered nurse at the Danville Regional Medical Center, who advised him that Claude was taking three medications: one for hypertension (which had not been given to him as a result of the accident), a non-narcotic pain killer, and an antibiotic. In addition, urine screening had been administered to Claude, and it was negative for alcohol or controlled substances.

Before trial, the defendants moved to suppress the written and oral statements given to the Virginia State Police and the FBI on the day of the accident. At a hearing on the motion, the defendants argued that their injuries, their lack of understanding of English as French-speaking Canadians, and the officers' failure to get an interpreter rendered their Miranda waivers and subsequent confessions involuntary. The district court found that the defendants understood English well enough to waive their rights validly. The court also concluded that the defendants' physical condition did not render their waivers invalid because the circumstances of the interviews were not so severe that the defendants' wills were overborne. Accordingly, the court denied the motion to suppress.

At trial, Claude Guay testified that he worked for Pierre Morrisette and that he had driven a load from Quebec to Miami International Airport, arriving on January 17, 1995. He stated that his broker then told him to go to Texas to pick up a load. He said he eventually arrived in McAllen, Texas, and realized he had forgotten his blood pressure medication. He said he had his son, Daniel Guay, fly to Texas with the medication.

Claude next testified that he picked up two loads of watermelons, one in Valverde, Texas, and one in Edinburg, Texas, on the way to meet his son near Houston. He said that a Mexican man approached him at a truck stop once he picked up his watermelon loads. The man allegedly told Claude he would give him $20,000 for transporting some "Mexican Smoke" to Canada. Claude said he went into the truck stop restaurant after talking with the man. He left the truck's door unlocked and ate while the man loaded the truck. He stated he did not look at what was put in the truck. He said he then picked up Daniel at another truck stop.

Claude further testified that Daniel went to check the watermelons' temperature during a fuel stop in Commerce, Georgia. Daniel asked his father about the suitcase in the back of the truck. Claude told Daniel not to worry about the Mexican suitcase. The pair purportedly continued their return trip to Canada without incident until the wreck in Virginia on January 26. Daniel Guay also testified at trial. He claimed he waited several days after he arrived in Texas before Claude met him. Daniel also stated that he used the name Mario Beaubien while he was in Texas because he did not have a license. The name appeared both in the truck's log book and on a receipt from a Texas hotel in which Daniel stayed.

Daniel further testified that when he checked the watermelons' temperature in Commerce, Georgia, he noticed the bags and looked to see what they contained. He said he did not know what was in the plastic wrapped bricks and later asked his father about the bags. Daniel stated that his father told him they were the Mexican's bags and not to concern ...


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