United States District Court, D. Arizona
HONORABLE ROSEMARY MARQUEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is Defendant Richard Madril’s Motion
to Sever his case from that of his co-defendant and spouse,
Marivel Cantu-Madril. (Doc. 61.) The Government filed a
response opposing severance. (Doc. 62.) No. reply was filed.
For the reasons set forth below, the Motion to Sever will be
Madril and his wife, Ms. Cantu-Madril, operated a private law
practice in Tucson, Arizona, specializing in immigration and
criminal defense law. (Doc. 28 at 2.) The indictment alleges
that Defendants deceived clients and government officials in
various ways between 2012 and 2018. (Id. at
3–4.) Mr. Madril was charged with conspiracy to commit
the offenses of forgery of judicial signatures, in violation
of 18 U.S.C. § 505; use and possession of a counterfeit
seal of an agency of the United States in violation of 18
U.S.C. § 506; mail fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 506; and wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
1343. (Id. at 2–6). His co-defendant, Ms.
Cantu-Madril, was also charged with conspiracy, as well as
other offenses. (Id. at 2-12.)
or more defendants “are alleged to have participated in
the same act or transaction, or in the same series of acts or
transactions, constituting an offense or offenses, ”
joinder of defendants is permitted. Fed. R Crim. P. 8(b).
“The defendants may be charged in one or more counts
together or separately” and “all defendants need
not be charged in each count” for joinder to apply.
Id. Severance of defendants is permitted if joinder
“appears to prejudice” a defendant or the
government. Fed. R. Crim. P. 14(a).
Ninth Circuit has established four factors for a court to
consider in determining the possibility of a
“prejudicial effect of a joint trial.” United
States v. Fernandez, 388 F.3d 1199, 1241 (9th Cir.
2004). The four factors are: (1) whether the jury can
reasonably “appraise the individual evidence against
each defendant”; (2) “the judge’s diligence
in instructing the jury on the limited purposes for which
certain evidence can be used”; (3) whether the evidence
and legal concepts are “within the competence of the
ordinary juror”; and (4) whether there was a risk that
a joint trial would compromise a trial right or
“prevent the jury from making a reliable judgment about
guilt or innocence.” Id. at 1241. “The
first two factors are the most important in this
trial is “particularly appropriate where the
co-defendants are charged with conspiracy.”
Id. at 1242. This is so because prejudice is less
likely to outweigh the interest of judicial efficiency when
much of the same evidence is admissible against both
defendants. Id. “There is a preference in the
federal system for joint trials of defendants who are
indicted together.” Zafiro v. United States,
506 U.S. 534, 537 (1993). “Mutually antagonistic
defenses are not prejudicial per se.”
Id. at 538. Furthermore, defendants are “not
entitled to severance merely because they may have a better
chance of acquittal in separate trials.” Id.
at 540. Any “spillover prejudice” resulting from
a joint trial can, at least in some cases, be cured by
appropriate jury instructions. Fernandez, 388 F.3d
at In Fernandez, twenty-four individual defendants
were charged with twenty-nine counts, including racketeering,
narcotics trafficking, and conspiracy to murder. Id.
at 1215, 1241. The court severed those defendants who were
eligible for the death penalty; the eleven remaining
non-capital defendants were tried together. Id. at
1215. Even though the charges were serious, complex, and
involved many defendants charged with different crimes, the
Ninth Circuit held that the trial court did not abuse its
discretion in refusing to sever the remaining defendants.
Id. at 1246. “The test for abuse of
discretion…is whether a joint trial was so manifestly
prejudicial as to require the trial judge to exercise his
discretion in but one way, by ordering a separate
trial.” United States v. Baker, 10 F.3d 1374,
1387 (9th Cir. 1993), overruled on other grounds by
United States v. Nordby, 225 F.3d 1053 (9th Cir. 2000).
Madril argues that severance is necessary because the jury
would find it hard to believe that he was not involved in the
offenses alleged only against his wife. (Doc. 61 at 2.)
Defendant Madril further argues that the “spillover
effect” of the evidence against Ms. Cantu-Madril will
prejudice him and undermine his right to a presumption of
innocence. (Id. at 3.) The Government opposes
severance, arguing that any possibility of prejudice can be
cured through proper jury instructions. (Doc. 62 at 2-3.)
has not alleged sufficient prejudice to warrant severance of
his case. The essence of Defendant’s argument is that
evidence against Ms. Cantu-Madril will “spill
over” to Mr. Madril, causing him unfair prejudice.
However, Defendant does not address the possibility that
appropriate jury instructions could cure the alleged
prejudice. Fernandez, 388 F.3d at 1243. Defendant
also does not explain specifically how the evidence in this
case would be likely to confuse the jury or prevent the jury
from making a reliable judgment. Id. at 1241.
Furthermore, Defendant does not allege any specific prejudice
related to co-defendants’ spousal relationship which
might weigh in favor of severance. See, e.g.,
United States v. Dobson, No. CRIM. 02-616-06, 2003
WL 22427984 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 18, 2003); United States v.
Vaccaro, 816 F.2d 443, 450 (9th Cir. 1987),
abrogated on other grounds by Huddleston v. United
States, 485 U.S. 681 (1988).
trial is appropriate here because the co-defendants are
charged with conspiracy and much of the same evidence will
likely be admissible against both defendants.
Fernandez, 388 F.3d at 1242. Defendant has not
demonstrated that manifest prejudice will result from a joint
trial. Baker, 10 F.3d at 1387.
IT IS ORDERED that Defendant Madril’s