Rojas Mamani et al v. Sanchez Berzain
ORDER granting in part and denying in part 360 Defendants' Motion in Limine to Exclude Material Concerning the 2009 Trial of Responsibilities in Bolivia. Signed by Senior Judge James I. Cohn on 2/14/2018. (ek00)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
CASE NO. 07-22459-CIV-COHN/SELTZER
CASE NO. 08-21063-CIV-COHN/SELTZER
ELOY ROJAS MAMANI, et al.,
JOSÉ CARLOS SÁNCHEZ BERZAÍN,
Defendant in No. 07-22459,
GONZALO DANIEL SÁNCHEZ DE
LOZADA SÁNCHEZ BUSTAMANTE,
Defendant in No. 08-21063.
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS’
MOTION IN LIMINE
THIS CAUSE is before the Court upon Defendants’ Motion in Limine to Exclude
Material Concerning the 2009 Trial of Responsibilities in Bolivia [DE 360 in Case No.
07-22459; DE 337 in Case No. 08-21063] (“Motion”). 1 The Court has considered the
Motion, Plaintiffs’ Response and Defendants’ Reply, the parties’ related submissions,
and the record in these cases, and is otherwise advised in the premises. For the
reasons stated below, Defendants’ Motion is granted in part and denied in part.
The Trial of Responsibilities (“TOR”) was a 2009 criminal proceeding in Bolivia, in
which a series of former military officers and government ministers were tried for their
roles in the events of September and October 2003. The various charges included,
All docket citations refer to Case No. 07-22459, which was consolidated with Case No. 0821093 in May 2008. See DE 68.
inter alia, “genocide” and “mistreatment and torture.” See Defendants’ Ex. R at 936,
942. 2 Defendants Lozada and Berzaín were charged but never tried, since they had
already fled to the United States. 3 DE 360-1 at 1. Plaintiffs seek, in these cases, to
present videotaped testimony from the TOR. Defendants have moved in limine to
exclude that testimony as inadmissible hearsay. DE 360-1. Plaintiffs counter that the
material in question is admissible pursuant to Federal Rule of Evidence 804(b)(1)’s
hearsay exception for prior testimony from an unavailable declarant, or, alternatively,
pursuant to Rule 807’s residual exception. DE 396.
THE PRIOR TESTIMONY EXCEPTION
A. Legal Standard
Rule 804(b)(1) provides that the prior testimony of an unavailable declarant is not
excluded by the rule against hearsay if: A) “[the testimony] was given as a witness at a
trial, hearing, or lawful deposition, whether given during the current proceeding or a
different one;” and B) “is now offered against a party who had—or, in a civil case, whose
predecessor in interest had—an opportunity and similar motive to develop it by direct,
cross-, or redirect examination.” Here, there is no dispute that the TOR witnesses—all
of them Bolivian nationals residing in Bolivia—are well beyond the subpoena power of
this Court and thus unavailable, as defined in Rule 804(a)(5)(A). See United States v.
Drogoul, 1 F.3d 1546, 1553 (11th Cir. 1993) (foreign nationals located abroad are
beyond district court subpoena power). Nor is there any question that the relevant
Defendants’ Exhibits are attached to the Declaration of Ana C. Reyes in Support of Defendants’
Motion to Exclude Material Concerning the Trial of Responsibilities [DE 360-2.]
For a more comprehensive discussion of the relevant factual history, see the Court’s
contemporaneous Order Denying Defendants’ Joint Motion for Summary Judgment.
testimony was given in a trial, by witnesses testifying under oath and subject to crossexamination. DE 360-1 at 8; DE 396 at 2. Accordingly, admissibility pursuant to the
prior testimony exception hinges on whether the TOR defendants qualify as
“predecessor[s] in interest” of the Defendants, and, if so, whether the TOR defendants
had “an opportunity and similar motive” to develop their testimony. Fed. R. Evid.
Predecessor in Interest
The meaning of “predecessor in interest” is a source of some ambiguity.
Defendants, understandably, argue for a narrow definition. See DE 360-1 at 8-12.
They review the legislative history of Rule 804(b)(1), flagging a 1973 House committee
report. Id. at 9. That report demonstrates that the Supreme Court’s original draft rule
omitted any relational requirement between a party against whom prior testimony is
offered and the parties in the earlier proceeding in which the witness testified. See H.R.
Rep. No. 650, 93d Cong., 2d Sess. 15 (1973). The “predecessor in interest” language
was apparently added during a House committee markup, owing to concerns about the
unfairness of using against a party testimony which that party had no opportunity to
develop or challenge. Id. Relying upon this history and a plain reading of the text,
Defendants contend that the Court should reject a broad construction of “predecessor in
interest” and instead define that term to mean something resembling privity. DE 360-1
at 9-12. According to this view, without the privity standard, a “predecessor in interest”
would amount to nothing more than a similarly situated party, which, in practice, would
mean a party with similar motive to develop or challenge a witness’s testimony. Such
approach would effectively collapse Rule 804(b)(1)(B)’s two distinct requirements,
rendering the “predecessor in interest” provision nugatory. Id. at 12.
While acknowledging the innate analytical appeal of Defendants’ position, the
Court cannot ignore that the overwhelming weight of authority is diametrically opposed.
The best Defendants can muster is a citation to a single case from the District of
Oregon. See DE 360-1 at 10 (citing Edwards v. Techtronic Indus. N. Am., Inc., 2015
WL 3616558, at *11 (D. Or. June 9, 2015) (endorsing privity standard)). In contrast,
Plaintiffs observe—and Defendants do not seriously dispute—that every federal
appellate court to address the issue has rejected a privity requirement and adopted
some permutation of “similarity of motive” to define “predecessor in interest.” See DE
396 at 7; DE 360-1 at 10-11; see also Culver v. Asbestos Defendants (BP), 2010 WL
5094698, at *4 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 8, 2010) (“The Third, Fourth, and Sixth Circuits have all
taken the position that the term ‘predecessor in interest’ actually adds quite little to the
rest of the requirements of the rule . . . . It does not appear that any circuit court has
expressly disavowed this interpretation . . . .”). And while the Eleventh Circuit is one of
the few circuits not to have weighed in, see Hearn v. McKay, 603 F.3d 897, 904 (11th
Cir. 2010), the Court will follow the lead of the other courts of appeals.
Opportunity and Similar Motive
Having concluded that application of the hearsay exception hinges on
“opportunity and similar motive,” the Court must interpret that component of the Rule. In
so doing, the Court notes that the appellate courts have diverged. Several, including
the Ninth and D.C. Circuits, apply an exceedingly permissive standard. According to
these courts, if the parties in a prior proceeding and present proceeding merely fall on
the same side of an issue, the requirement is satisfied. See United States v. McFall,
558 F.3d 951, 963 (9th Cir. 2009); United States v. Miller, 904 F.2d 65, 68 (D.C. Cir.
1990). Others have followed the Second Circuit’s decision in United States v. DiNapoli,
8 F.3d 909 (2d Cir. 1993) (en banc), which imposes a more stringent test. See Battle ex
rel. Battle v. Mem’l Hosp. at Gulfport, 228 F.3d 544, 552-53 (5th Cir. 2000); United
States v. Bartelho, 129 F.3d 663, 671-72 (1st Cir. 1997).
In its well-reasoned opinion, the DiNapoli Court held that: “The test must turn not
only on whether the questioner is on the same side of the same issue at both
proceedings, but also on whether the questioner had a substantially similar interest in
asserting that side of the issue.” 8 F.3d at 912 (emphasis added). As the Second
Circuit explained: “If a fact is critical to a cause of action at a second proceeding but the
same fact was only peripherally related to a different cause of action at a first
proceeding, no one would claim that the questioner had a similar motive at both
proceedings to show that the fact had been established (or disproved).” Id.
The Court finds DiNapoli to be persuasive. For “similar motive” to have any
reasonable meaning, it must account for the degree of importance attached to an issue
at both proceedings. The Court observes that, while the Eleventh Circuit has not
explicitly adopted the DiNapoli standard, it has cited DiNapoli approvingly. See United
States v. Miles, 290 F.3d 1341, 1352-53 (11th Cir. 2002). Therefore, in determining
admissibility of the TOR testimony, the Court will review each category of disputed
testimony and assess not only whether the TOR defendants and Defendants in these
cases were on the same side of the key issues, but also whether the TOR defendants
had a “substantially similar interest” in asserting their side of those issues.
Finally, the Court notes that Plaintiffs, as the parties offering hearsay evidence,
bear the burden of demonstrating admissibility. United States v. Acosta, 769 F.2d 721,
723 (11th Cir. 1985) (“The burden of proving the unavailability of a witness under Rule
804(a) rests with the proponent of the hearsay evidence . . . .”); United States v. Amato,
2006 WL 1788190, at *1 (E.D.N.Y. June 26, 2006) (party seeking to admit prior
testimony must prove each element of hearsay exception by a preponderance of the
evidence). With these principles in mind, the Court will analyze each category of
challenged testimony to determine whether it qualifies for the Rule 804(b)(1) exception.
1. Testimony as to the Absence of a Guerilla Force in Bolivia
Plaintiffs offer testimony from several TOR witnesses that no armed guerilla
movements operated in Bolivia during September and October of 2003. DE 396 at 12;
Plaintiffs’ Ex. 9 at 3 (TOR transcript of former Commander of the National Police Jairo
Sanabria Gonzales), Ex. 10 at 1-2 (TOR transcript of military intelligence officer Jorge
Botelo Monje), Ex. 11 at 6-7 (TOR transcript of former National Director of Intelligence
Fernando Uribe Encinas). 4 Defendants argue that this testimony fails the Rule
804(b)(1) standard, because the TOR defendants’ questioning of these witnesses was
insufficient. DE 397 at 5-6. Defendants stress that, had they been able to crossexamine the witnesses, they would have confronted them with evidence demonstrating
the presence of guerilla leaders and of armed protestors attacking police with rifles and
Defendants’ argument thus goes to the comprehensiveness of the crossexamination, and, perhaps, to strategic decisions made by the TOR defendants in the
earlier proceeding. But these considerations are not determinative, since, as discussed
above, the governing standard looks to the alignment of interests between the parties in
the prior and present proceedings, not to whether the parties in the present proceeding
Plaintiffs’ Exhibits are attached to the Declaration of Joseph L. Sorkin in Opposition to
Defendants’ Motion to Exclude Material Concerning the Trial of Responsibilities [DE 396-1].
would have conducted the witness examinations differently. See Miles, 290 F.3d at
1353 (“While the availability of foregone cross-examination opportunities is one factor to
consider, it is not conclusive because examiners will frequently be able to suggest lines
of questioning that were not pursued at a prior proceeding.”)
Plaintiffs make a convincing case that, just as Defendants’ decision to order the
military to confront protestors would seem more justifiable if it were true that the
“protestors” included armed insurgents, so too would the presence of armed insurgents
have served as a helpful fact for the military defendants in the TOR, on trial in part for
having caused protestor deaths. In other words, the TOR defendants and Defendants
were on the same side of this issue and had a substantially similar interest in asserting
their position. Accordingly, the Court finds that testimony regarding the absence of
armed guerilla movements satisfies the Rule 804(b)(1) standard.
2. Testimony Regarding the Date of Implementation of the
The Republic Plan was a plan for the Bolivian Army to “apply the Principles of
Mass and Shock” in an effort to quell protests and related subversive activities. 5 Army
General Juan Veliz Herrera testified that the Republic Plan was put into effect between
September 10 and September 12, 2003. DE 396 at 14; Plaintiffs’ Ex. 13 at 2-3. This
testimony meets the Rule 804(b)(1) standard, because, to the extent it implies that any
subsequent military action resulting in civilian deaths occurred as part of a premeditated
plan to target protestors, the TOR defendants would have had a motive to challenge it
at least as strong as that of Defendants.
The Republic Plan is Exhibit ZZZ to the Declaration of Joseph L. Sorkin in Opposition to
Defendants’ Joint Motion for Summary Judgment [DE 375-2].
3. Testimony Regarding an Order for Police to Withdraw and for
the Military to Assume Responsibility for Security in El Alto
Plaintiffs offer testimony from Commander Gonzales about an order from
Defendants that the police relinquish—and the military assume—responsibility for
security in El Alto. DE 396 at 12-13; Plaintiffs’ Ex. 9 at 1-3. Gonzales further testified
that, at the time the military entered the city, the police had not been overwhelmed,
could have continued to perform their security function, and were under orders to avoid
the use of lethal force. Id. Defendants argue that they have a significantly greater
motive to pursue this point than did the TOR defendants. The Court agrees.
The extent to which Defendants’ decision to deploy the military was or was not
an appropriate response to a deteriorating security environment could play an important
role in coloring a jury’s perception of their conduct. But that was not the case for the
TOR defendants. As military officers, the rationale for the deployment was not
particularly significant (absent any allegation that their orders included directives to
target nonviolent protestors). Instead, those defendants would have been primarily
motivated to disprove any allegations that the military, once stationed in El Alto,
engaged in the improper use of force. 6
Accordingly, the Court finds that Plaintiffs have not met their burden of proving
that the TOR defendants had a substantially similar interest to that of Defendants
The Court recognizes that, in addition to military officers, the TOR defendants included the
former Environment and Labor Ministers. DE 360-1 at 3. These civilian officials were convicted of
genocide for having signed, along with the rest of the cabinet, a decree authorizing the military to escort
fuel tankers into La Paz. Id.; Defendants’ Ex. M. While this would indicate that at least two TOR
defendants were motivated to demonstrate the reasonableness of certain military deployment orders, the
Court finds that the interest of the Defendants, who as President and Defense Minister were directly
responsible for promulgating those orders, is considerably greater. Moreover, as the official in
possession of intelligence reports from both the police and the military, Defendant Lozada would have
had a greater opportunity to challenge the testimony. See DE 390 at 5.
Lozada and Berzaín in addressing the issue of the military deployment order and
security environment in El Alto.
4. Testimony that Defendant Lozada Took Responsibility for the
Events of Late 2003
Plaintiffs offer testimony from TOR defendant Roberto Claros Flores, former
commanding officer of the Bolivian military. DE 396 at 12-13. Flores testified that
Defendants paid a visit to military headquarters at some point subsequent to the deaths
of protestors in El Alto, during which Defendant Lozada expressed regret for the
situation in Bolivia, accepted responsibility for it, and asked the military to continue
complying with his orders. Id.; Plaintiffs’ Ex. 12 at 1. This evidence fails to satisfy the
Rule 804(b)(1) standard. Lozada undoubtedly has a substantially stronger motive to
undermine testimony pertaining to self-incriminating statements that he is alleged to
have made than did the TOR defendants.
5. Testimony that Defendant Lozada Was Warned that Use of the
Military Would Lead to Civilian Deaths
Former Bolivian Vice President Carlos Mesa testified about an October 12, 2003
meeting with Defendant Lozada. Mesa claims that, during this meeting, he warned
Lozada that deployment of the military would result in civilian deaths and that a
separate government official notified Lozada that nine civilians had perished in El Alto
earlier that day. DE 396 at 13; Plaintiffs’ Ex. 8 at 1-2. This testimony fails to satisfy the
Rule 804(b)(1) standard. Once again, Lozada has a considerably stronger motive than
did the TOR defendants to challenge testimony about unheeded warnings given directly
to him. And he would have had greater knowledge, since he was the one present in the
meeting who knows precisely what took place.
6. Testimony that Defendant Lozada Ordered the Military to
Transport People Away from Sorata and that Defendant
Berzaín Insisted Upon Traveling to Sorata
Testimony from General Veliz that Defendant Lozada ordered the military to
transport people away from Sorata and that Defendant Berzaín insisted upon traveling
to Sorata fails the Rule 804(b)(1) standard. DE 396 at 14; Plaintiffs’ Ex. 13 at 3-4. Both
Defendants have a greater motive to challenge testimony regarding their own actions,
especially where, as here, the testimony goes to their effective control of the military
and arguably evidences that their actions were carried out to implement their plan to
quash opposition to their policies by killing civilians.
7. Testimony Regarding the Gas Export Plan
Intelligence officer Monje testified regarding his own opinion as to the downsides
of the gas export plan. DE 397 at 6; Plaintiffs’ Ex. 10 at 2-3. This testimony fails the
Rule 804(b)(1) standard. Defendants were involved in implementing that plan; the TOR
defendants were not. 7 See DE 397 at 6.
8. Testimony Regarding Military Caliber Firearms
Commander Gonzales testified that “according to medical reports,” protestors
were killed by gunshots from military caliber firearms. DE 397 at 5; Plaintiffs’ Ex. 9 at 2.
Since Gonzales relies upon material contained in reports which are themselves
hearsay, the testimony constitutes inadmissible hearsay within hearsay. See Fed. R.
The Court also questions the relevance of this evidence, as the merits of the plan are not at
THE RESIDUAL EXCEPTION
Plaintiffs argue, as a fallback position, that any testimony which does not qualify
under the prior testimony exception is admissible pursuant to Rule 807’s residual
exception. The residual exception provides for admission of a hearsay statement not
specifically covered by other exceptions if that statement: (1) has equivalent
circumstantial guarantees of trustworthiness; (2) is offered as evidence of a material
fact; (3) is more probative on the point for which it is offered than any other evidence
that the proponent can obtain through reasonable efforts; and (4) admitting the
statement will best serve the purposes of the Rules of Evidence and the interests of
justice. Fed. R. Evid. 807. “Congress intended the residual exception to be used very
rarely, and only in exceptional circumstances.” United Techs. Corp. v. Mazer, 556 F.3d
1260, 1279 (11th Cir. 2009) (quoting United States v. Ingram, 501 F.3d 963, 967 (8th
Cir. 2007)). And the exception applies “only when exceptional guarantees of
trustworthiness exist.” United States v. Jayyousi, 657 F.3d 1085, 1113 (11th Cir. 2011)
(internal quotation marks omitted).
These cases do not present the “exceptional circumstances” that would warrant
application of the residual exception. In fact, the circumstances surrounding the TOR
constitute the precise opposite of the “exceptional guarantees of trustworthiness”
necessary for admission of the TOR testimony. Defendants recount at length the
severe defects in the TOR, including, inter alia, the fact that the original, independent
prosecutors were fired and replaced by the Morales government when they
recommended against prosecution, that President Morales publicly threatened to
imprison one of the presiding judges for failing to convict the defendants quickly
enough, that witnesses have testified about bribes being paid to other judges, and that,
more generally, Bolivia ranks near the bottom on various global lists assessing strength
of the rule of law and judicial independence. DE 360-1 at 3-6; DE 397 at 8-9. These
concerns necessarily influence the Court’s view of the trustworthiness of testimony
delivered in the TOR. 8 Accordingly, the Court cannot find that any TOR testimony
meets the high bar for admission under the residual exception.
Defendants move to exclude any reference to the Trial of Responsibilities under
Rule 403. They claim that discussion of a past proceeding which included charges of
“genocide” and “torture” would prove highly prejudicial, especially if the jury were to
learn that the TOR defendants were convicted. DE 360-1 at 15-16. They further
contend that such discussion would cause undue delay and confusion, since it would
necessitate Defendants’ presentation of considerable rebuttal evidence regarding
international legal principles, Bolivian law and politics, and the myriad deficiencies in the
TOR itself. Id. at 16-17. Plaintiffs respond that they do not actually intend to offer much
of the purportedly prejudicial evidence Defendants oppose. DE 381 at 1. But it is not
clear to the Court what the Plaintiffs do intend to offer apart from the specific excerpts of
TOR testimony addressed above, if anything.
The Court finds that the two categories of testimony which qualify under the Rule
804(b)(1) exception—testimony regarding the absence of armed guerilla groups and
regarding timing of the implementation of the Republic Plan—would not be adversely
impacted by Rule 403. Accordingly, those two categories are admissible. The Court
Plaintiffs cite an opinion by the U.N. Human Rights Committee concluding that the TOR
complied with international human rights standards and did not violate its defendants’ due process rights.
See DE 396 at 4. While the Court acknowledges this opinion, the Court maintains its concern based on
the alleged procedural irregularities.
will defer further ruling on any other evidence regarding the TOR which Plaintiffs may
seek to introduce.
In light of the foregoing, Defendants have demonstrated that, with the few
exceptions addressed above, testimony from the Trial of Responsibilities is inadmissible
hearsay. Accordingly, it is thereupon ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that Defendants’
Motion [DE 360] is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part as follows:
1. Defendants’ request to exclude testimony as to the absence of a guerilla force in
Bolivia is DENIED.
2. Defendants’ request to exclude testimony regarding the timing of the initiation of
the Republic Plan is DENIED.
3. Defendants’ request to exclude testimony regarding orders for the police to
withdraw and for the military to assume responsibility for security in El Alto is
4. Defendants’ request to exclude testimony that Defendant Lozada took
responsibility for the events of late 2003 is GRANTED.
5. Defendants’ request to exclude testimony that Defendant Lozada was warned
that use of the military would lead to civilian deaths is GRANTED.
6. Defendants’ request to exclude testimony that Defendant Lozada ordered the
military to transport people away from Sorata and that Defendant Berzaín
insisted upon traveling to Sorata is GRANTED.
7. Defendants’ request to exclude testimony from Jorge Botelo Monje regarding his
views of the gas plan is GRANTED.
8. Defendants’ request to exclude testimony from Jairo Sanabria Gonzales that,
according to medical reports, protestors were shot with military caliber firearms is
DONE AND ORDERED in Chambers at Fort Lauderdale, Broward County,
Florida, this 14th day of February, 2018.
Copies provided to counsel of record via CM/ECF
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