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State v. Castillo-Alvarez

Supreme Court of Minnesota

September 11, 2013

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
Juan Humberto Castillo-Alvarez, Appellant.

Court of Appeals Office of Appellate Courts

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, James B. Early, Assistant Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and

Robert C. O'Connor, Jackson County Attorney, Jackson, Minnesota, for respondent.

David W. Merchant, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Benjamin J. Butler, Assistant State Public Defender, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for appellant.


1. Minnesota Statutes § 609.045 (2012) did not bar the Minnesota prosecution because appellant's Iowa conviction, which was set aside on appeal, was not a final conviction under the statute.

2. The Double Jeopardy Clause of the Minnesota Constitution allows successive state prosecutions when a defendant's single act transgresses the laws of both states.

3. A choice-of-law issue concerning the admissibility of an unrecorded out-of-state interrogation is resolved by applying the most significant relationship approach. The state with the most significant relationship to an unrecorded interrogation is the state in which prosecution is contemplated at the time of the interrogation. Even if the unrecorded interrogation would not be admissible under State v. Scales, 518 N.W.2d 587 (Minn. 1994), it is admissible in a Minnesota court if it is admissible under the laws of the state with the most significant relationship, so long as there is no strong Minnesota public policy to exclude the evidence.



GILDEA, Chief Justice.

Appellant Juan Humberto Castillo-Alvarez challenges his convictions for second-degree murder and kidnapping, in violation of Minn. Stat. §§ 609.19, subds. 1(1), 2(1), 609.25 (2012). Castillo-Alvarez contends that Minn. Stat. § 609.045 (2012) and the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Minnesota Constitution bar the prosecution in this case. He also asserts that the district court erred in admitting evidence of his unrecorded statement to law enforcement. Because neither section 609.045 nor the Minnesota Constitution bar the prosecution and because the district court properly admitted Castillo-Alvarez's unrecorded statement, we affirm.

This case arises from the June 1997 kidnapping and murder of 15-year-old Gregory Sky Erickson. Erickson lived in Estherville, Iowa and started using and selling drugs in 1996. Castillo-Alvarez also lived in Estherville and owned a Mexican restaurant. Castillo-Alvarez was a drug dealer who fronted drugs to street-level dealers.[1]

In December 1996 a street-level dealer, Luis Lua, fronted Erickson one pound of marijuana. Erickson was expected to pay Lua $1400 after the marijuana was sold, and Lua then would be able to pay a debt Lua owed to Castillo-Alvarez. Erickson was not able to sell the marijuana because he was arrested and police seized the drugs. Consequently, Erickson did not have the money to repay Lua. Lua was upset because he was not paid and, in turn, did not have the money to pay Castillo-Alvarez. Both Lua and Castillo-Alvarez were also concerned that Erickson would tell the police about their drug business. In addition, Erickson owed a debt to a street-level dealer in Estherville named Aurelio Ortiz. Ortiz gave Erickson $500 to buy a half-ounce of methamphetamine, but Erickson neither obtained the drugs nor refunded the $500.

On June 5, 1997, Lua and two other people, Ben Alden and Shawn Knakmuhs, confronted Erickson. Erickson was found in a closet at E.S.'s apartment. Knakmuhs demanded that Erickson deliver Ortiz's drugs or return Ortiz's money. Erickson gave the group some methamphetamine, and Knakmuhs took $50. Lua then pointed a pistol at Erickson and told Erickson that he had one day to repay the rest of his debt. Later, when the group weighed the drugs Erickson gave them, Lua and Ortiz became angry because Erickson lied about the amount of drugs he had given them.

The next day, Lua, Ortiz, Alden, Knakmuhs, Juan Astello and several other men armed with multiple guns, including a Lorcin .380 handgun that Lua received from Castillo-Alvarez, confronted Erickson. Alden went into E.S.'s apartment to see if he could resolve the situation, but Erickson was not there. The rest of the group entered the apartment. Lua then sent Alden to retrieve Erickson.

When he later arrived at E.S.'s apartment, Erickson was taken into the bedroom and assaulted. At one point, Lua put an unloaded gun in Erickson's mouth and pulled the trigger. Lua then told Erickson that they were taking him to see "the man" and Erickson would be "lucky if the man let him live." Lua told Erickson if he ran, Lua would shoot him.

Lua and other men drove Erickson to Castillo-Alvarez's restaurant in Estherville. Erickson's hands were tied behind his back. When they arrived at the restaurant, Castillo-Alvarez got into the car with Lua. When Castillo-Alvarez emerged from the car, Castillo-Alvarez told Ramiro Astello "that [they] were supposed to take [Erickson], give him a beating and let him walk back to town" and that Lua would tell them "what would be next."

Lua and four men drove to a secluded area. Erickson was pulled from the car and was assaulted again. Lua pulled out a gun and pointed it at Erickson. Astello asked Lua what he was doing, and Lua responded that Castillo-Alvarez told him to kill Erickson and leave his body in Minnesota.

Instead of shooting Erickson there, a large garbage bag was placed over Erickson's head, and Erickson was put in the trunk of the car so he would not bleed on the back seat. The group drove to an abandoned farmhouse in Jackson County, Minnesota. Erickson was taken into the basement and killed. Lua shot Erickson first with the gun Castillo-Alvarez had given him, and then Erickson was shot by another man.

The next day, Lua and Knakmuhs attempted to set fire to the farmhouse so Erickson's body could not be identified. They poured gas around the basement, including Erickson's body. The fire burned part of the basement but not the entire house. Erickson's partly burned body was found one week later.

After Erickson's body was found, police executed a search warrant at Castillo-Alvarez's restaurant. During the search, the Lorcin .380 that Lua used to shoot Erickson was found in a false ceiling. But Castillo-Alvarez fled the area before he could be arrested.

In 2004, Castillo-Alvarez was located in Mexico, extradition proceedings began, and the State of Iowa charged Castillo-Alvarez with second-degree murder, kidnapping, and conspiracy. State v. Castillo-Alvarez, No. 08-0868, 2009 WL 2960419 (Iowa Ct. App. Sept. 2, 2009). Mexican officials arrested Castillo-Alvarez and returned him to the United States in October 2006. Castillo-Alvarez was received by FBI Agent Robert Birnie and the Clay County Iowa Sheriff at a Houston, Texas airport. While in an FBI office at the airport, and after Castillo-Alvarez read and signed a waiver of his Miranda rights, the agent and sheriff conducted a custodial interrogation. In keeping with FBI policy and Texas and Iowa law, the officers did not electronically record the interrogation. During the interview, Castillo-Alvarez denied involvement in Erickson's murder. Castillo-Alvarez said that he told Lua to take Erickson to the country, beat him up, leave him naked, and let him walk back to town. But Castillo-Alvarez denied telling Lua to kidnap or kill Erickson.

Following a jury trial in Iowa, Castillo-Alvarez was convicted on all charges. In September 2009, a divided panel of the Iowa Court of Appeals reversed the convictions based on a violation of Iowa's speedy trial rule, Iowa R. Crim. P. 2.33(2)(b). State v. Castillo-Alvarez, No. 08-0868, 2009 WL 2960419 (Iowa Ct. App. Sept. 2, 2009).[2]

Five months later, in February 2010, the Jackson County Attorney in Minnesota charged Castillo-Alvarez with two counts of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and one count of aiding and abetting kidnapping. Castillo-Alvarez filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that Minn. Stat. § 609.045 and the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Minnesota Constitution, Minn. Const. art. I, § 7, barred the Minnesota prosecution. In the same motion, Castillo-Alvarez sought to suppress his statement to Agent Birnie because it was not ...

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