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Diaz-Colon v. Fuentes-Agostini

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

May 18, 2015

JOSÉ LUIS DÍAZ-COLÓN, on his own behalf and on behalf of his minor son J.L.D.R.; LINDA DELGADO, on behalf of her minor daughter D.M.D.D.; ZORAIDA COLÓN-CARTAGENA; PEDRO DÍAZ; PEDRO LUIS DÍAZ-COLÓN; YAHAIRA ENID DÍAZ-COLÓN; LOURDES DE JESÚ SVELÁ ZQUEZ, on her own and on behalf of her minor children J.L.S.D.; J.L.L.S.D., on their own and as legal heirs of Leopoldo Sanabria-Díaz; L.S.D., on their own and as legal heirs of Leopoldo Sanabria-Díaz; ALBAELA DÍAZ-CARABALLO; LEONARDO SANABRIA-DÍAZ; JENNIFER PIRIS-JUSINO, on her own and on behalf of her minor daughter G.R.P.; LUCY GUZMÁ N-BORRERO; CARMELO VELÁ ZQUEZ-COLÓN; CARMELO COLÓN-RIVERA; ORLANDO COLÓN-VELÁZQUEZ; ORLANDO RAMOS-FÉLIX; JOSEFA FÉLIX; JOSÉ ANTONIO FÉLIX; ELISEO RAMOS-FÉLIX; JUAN MARCOS MERCED-GÓMEZ; HÉ CTOR MERCED-RODRÍGUEZ; MARÍA E. GÓMEZ-VELÁ ZQUEZ; LEOPOLDO SANABRIA-MORALES; MARIBEL ORTIZ-VÁZQUEZ, on behalf of minor, J.M.S.O; ANA LUISA DÍAZ-RIVERA; YOLANDA ORTIZ-DÍAZ; EVELYN ORTIZ-DÍAZ; LUIS DANIEL ORTIZ-DÍAZ; DIGNO ORTIZ-DÍAZ; FRANCIS I. LÓ PEZ-DÍAZ; CHELSEA LUZ MERCED; HÉ CTOR JULIO MERCED-GÓMEZ, Plaintiffs, Appellees,
v.
JOSÉ A. FUENTES-AGOSTINI; GABRIEL REDONDO; JUAN JOSÉ TOLEDO-BAYOUTH; JOSÉ CAPÓ ; JOSÉ TOLEDO-BAYOUTH; FERNANDO TOLEDO-BAYOUTH; PEDRO J. TOLEDO-BAYOUTH; ANÍBAL SOLIVAN-SOLIVAN; HÉ CTOR TIRADO; DANIEL COLÓN; FRANCISCO BÁEZ-QUIÑ ONES; JESÚ S FIGUEROA-CRUZ, Defendants, Appellants, PEDRO TOLEDO-DÁVILA; FNU CANDELARIA; ESTATE OF ULPIANO-CRESPO, comprised of unknown individuals K through S; JOSÉ FIGUEROA; ULPIANO CRESPO; ZOÉ DÍAZ-COLÓN; CONJUGAL PARTNERSHIP BÁEZ-DOE; CONJUGAL PARTNERSHIP CAPÓ -DOE; CONJUGAL PARTNERSHIP COLÓN-DOE; CONJUGAL PARTNERSHIP DÍAZ-DOE; CONJUGAL PARTNERSHIP FIGUEROA-DOE; CONJUGAL PARTNERSHIP FUENTES-DOE; CONJUGAL PARTNERSHIP REDONDO-DOE; CONJUGAL PARTNERSHIP SOLIVAN-DOE; CONJUGAL PARTNERSHIP TIRADO-DOE; CONJUGAL PARTNERSHIP TOLEDO-DOE, Defendants

Page 145

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO. Hon. Francisco A. Besosa, U.S. District Judge.

Ivonne Cruz-Serrano, with whom Miguel A. Rangel Rosas and Maymí, Rivera, LLC, were on brief, for appellants.

Pedro R. Vázquez, III, with whom José F. Quetglas Jordá n, Quetglas Law, Osvaldo Pérez Marrero, and Osvaldo Pérez Marrero Law Office, were on brief, for appellees.

Before Torruella, Howard, and Kayatta, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 146

KAYATTA, Circuit Judge.

This lawsuit arises out of two sets of wrongful murder convictions in Puerto Rico's courts. In each murder trial, jurors convicted a group of individuals based in large part on the testimony of a single witness, Zoé Díaz-Colón (" Díaz" ). After one of the convicted individuals killed himself in prison, Díaz came forward to recant her testimony, claiming that law enforcement personnel had coerced and bribed her into giving fabricated testimony. After the Commonwealth courts subsequently vacated the convictions, and all charges against them were dropped, the wrongfully convicted individuals (and/or their heirs and family members) filed these consolidated civil damages actions in federal court against police officers and prosecutors involved in their misbegotten prosecutions. Nine of those law enforcement defendants (or their heirs) now appeal from the denial of their respective motions for summary judgment based on absolute or qualified immunities. We reverse in part the denial of summary judgment for assistant district attorney Gabriel Redondo-Miranda (" ADA Redondo" ), but otherwise affirm the district court's rulings.

I. Background

Because this appeal arises from the denial of the defendants' motions for summary judgment, we present the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs, accepting as true all of the inferences the district court drew in the plaintiffs' favor. Cady v. Walsh, 753 F.3d 348, 350 (1st Cir. 2014). And because our review in this case is interlocutory, we train our focus on rulings of law, rather than assessments of fact. Id. at 358-59.

A. Factual Background

Puerto Rico police hired Díaz as a paid informant on August 2, 1995. The following day, Rafael Colomba was murdered in Salinas, Puerto Rico. More than two years later Antonio Peña was murdered in Salinas on November 5, 1997. Defendant police agent Jesú s Figueroa-Cruz (" Agent Figueroa" )[1] investigated the Colomba murder, and defendant police agent Francisco Báez-Quiñones (" Agent Báez" ) led the investigation into Peña's murder. The investigations stalled until June of 1998, when Díaz gave two sworn statements at the Guayama police station claiming both that: (1) she heard Orlando Ramos-Fé lix, Carmelo Vé lazquez Colón, and Leopoldo Sanabria-Díaz (" Sanabria" ) plan and later admit to the Colomba murder; and (2) she also heard José Díaz-Colón, Héctor Merced Gómez, and Manuel Ortiz (" Ortiz" ) plan and later admit to the Peña murder. Agent Figueroa and defendant assistant district attorney José Capó (" ADA Capó" ) were present for the taking of Díaz's statement on the Colomba murder. ADA Redondo did not participate in the investigation of either murder.

Díaz was the key prosecution witness at both murder trials.[2] No one told defense counsel during either trial that Díaz had been a ...


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