Federal Court Rules that Defendant was not Denied Due Process
Case: United States v. Folad
Court: U.S. Court of Appeals Sixth Circuit ( Published Opinion )
Judges: Sutton, Gilman, and Stranch
Whether the government violated defendants’ due process rights through the destruction of potentially exculpatory evidence; Action by private entities; Flagg Bros. Inc. v. Brooks; United States v. Lambert; United States v. Garlock (8th Cir.); The destruction of evidence by the government; Arizona v. Youngblood; Brady v. Maryland; California v. Trombetta; Remedy for failing to preserve evidence that is relevant for sentencing; Cone v. Bell; Bad faith failure to collect potentially exculpatory evidence; Miller v. Vasquez (9th Cir.)
The court held that defendants failed to support their claim that the replacement of ATM machines used to commit their crimes violated their due process rights. They were convicted for reprogramming ATM machines to dispense more money than requested. Sometime after the crime was discovered, the ATMs' owner, SafeCash, replaced all but one of the machines to comply with an unrelated government regulation. Defendants argued that this constituted a “destruction of potentially exculpatory evidence,” and violated their due process rights. The court first held that because the machines were replaced by SafeCash, and not by the government, their due process claim could not succeed—the Due Process Clause does not apply to “action by private entities.” It rejected defendants’ attempts to analogize cases involving government instigation of action by private entities under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, where there was no evidence “that the government coerced or instigated or encouraged SafeCash to replace the ATMs, or indeed knew SafeCash planned to do so.” Further, even assuming that SafeCash was an agent of the government, defendants failed to show that “the ATMs contained apparently exculpatory evidence[,]” or that “the government violated their due process rights by destroying ‘potentially useful’ evidence in bad faith.” As to their claim that the ATMs might have provided exculpatory evidence for sentencing purposes, the “remedy for failing to preserve evidence that is relevant for sentencing would be a new sentence,” not dismissal of the indictment. The court affirmed their convictions and sentences.