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United States v. Miranda

September 24, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable David H. Coar


Defendant Maria Miranda ("Miranda" or "Defendant") was convicted of conspiracy and drug-trafficking. Afterward, she filed a motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence (Doc. No. 251). On April 18, 2007, an evidentiary hearing was held before this Court on this motion. Defendant's evidence consisted entirely of the testimony of Dr. Gardner, who was retained by Defendant to administer psychological assessment tests to Miranda for post-trial sentencing purposes. During these psychological evaluations, which included six hours of clinical interviews, the administration of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory ("MMPI-2"), and an interview with a collateral source, Dr. Gardner came to the conclusion that Miranda is "pathologically naïve," has "impaired logic," and exhibits a psychological age equivalent to a twelve year old. Dr. Gardner based these conclusions on the scaled scores from Miranda's personality test as compared with anecdotal evidence from her life history and observations of Miranda during her interviews. After reviewing Defendant's arguments for reconsideration and the newly discovered evidence, Defendant's motion is DENIED.


The Government's main argument is that Dr. Gardner's testimony is an insufficient basis on which to grant a new trial because her testimony would be inadmissible under the Daubert standards and her central conclusion of "remarkable" naïvete was ultimately withdrawn. The Government claims that Dr. Gardner's testimony is unreliable because, inter alia, it did not contain a valid, scientifically recognized diagnosis and her conclusions were based on inadequate data and derived from procedures not following standard protocol. Specifically, the Government argues that Dr. Gardner did not sufficiently corroborate Miranda's story with third parties and she never conducted a test to specifically measure Miranda's cognitive capacity before determining that she suffered from impaired logic and judgment. The Government also contends that Dr. Gardner's administration of the MMPI-2 was flawed and that her failure to give due consideration to evidence of Miranda's dishonesty in interpreting her psychological profile undermines the reliability of Dr. Gardner's conclusions. This is because some of Miranda's stories of her childhood formed the foundation of Dr. Gardner's judgment that her early experiences with poverty and men caused her naïvete. The Government points out that Dr. Gardner admitted during the hearing to several points regarding accepted professional practices that cast doubt on the credibility of her own findings and that the contradictory and ambiguous nature of the anecdotal support for her diagnosis is too subjective to be persuasive on the issue. For these reasons, the Government argues that the ostrich instruction was appropriate and that the Seventh Circuit's recent affirmation of Miranda's conviction should stand without grant of a new trial.


Defendant argues that Dr. Gardner's testimony demonstrates Miranda is incapable of the behaviors necessary to satisfy the requisite "deliberate avoidance" standard of knowledge that was the basis of her original conviction. At her criminal trial, this Court issued an ostrich instruction, which permits a jury to convict if, given what the Defendant knew, they could infer that Miranda knew enough to suspect involvement in criminal activity but deliberately avoided discovering the truth. Defendant contends that Dr. Gardner's testimony is evidence that Miranda's "remarkable" naïvete prevented her from second-guessing the motives of her co-conspirators because she is not equipped to do the intuitive questioning that would lead others to be appropriately suspicious under similar circumstances. They assert that these naïve predispositions make it unlikely that Miranda was deliberately avoiding knowledge, but instead was genuinely unaware of her co-conspirators' plans. If the ostrich instruction was inappropriate, Defendant argues that the Government would have had to meet a higher burden at trial to show that Miranda had actual knowledge beyond a reasonable doubt and in light of Dr. Gardner's new evidence this would be difficult to demonstrate. For these reasons, Defendant argues that the new evidence would probably lead to Miranda's acquittal if a new trial was granted.

In responding to the Government's claims that Dr. Gardner's testimony would be inadmissible under the Daubert standards, Defendant submits that her testimony was based on tests and methodologies generally accepted in the field of psychology. Even though there are other tests or protocols that could have been used, Defendant contends that this does not undermine the reliability of the methods that Dr. Gardner did choose in this instance. While Defendant admits that further psychological testing is possible and would be helpful in confirming Dr. Gardner's initial findings, the potential for more extensive exams does not cast doubt on Dr. Gardner's current opinions. Defendant asserts that Dr. Gardner's testimony is enough to infer that Miranda could convincingly demonstrate at a new trial that her psychological limitations precluded the possibility of her having the requisite mens rea to support a conviction of conspiracy, thus leading to a probable acquittal.


* Dr. Gardner met with Miranda on two occasions in October 2003 and has not seen or evaluated her since that time. (Maria Miranda Hr'g Tr. 40, April 18, 2007.) The results of the MMPI-2 test are reliable only to a certain degree over time, which may mean that the results garnered in 2003 did not perfectly reflect Miranda's profile at the time of the crime in 2002. (Tr. at 107.)

* The questionnaire for the clinical interview did not come from a standard diagnostic assessment but was composed of questions that Dr. Gardner generated herself. (Tr. at 43-44.)

* The results of Miranda's MMPI-2 yielded elevated scores on the "L scale," which measures the degree to which the client is lying, the schizophrenia scale, which suggests logic impairment, and the paranoia scale, which measures suspiciousness. (Tr. at 25, 29, 100.)

* The validity indicators on the MMPI-2 showed that Miranda was giving reasonable information in response to the questions asked and the indices were not high enough to invalidate Miranda's test results. (Tr. at 73.)

* Dr. Gardner characterized her interpretation of her clinical evaluations of Miranda as a "mosaic" approach, arrived at by construing Miranda's test results in light of her life history and personal observations and clarified by the use of professional diagnostic manuals. (Tr. at 12-15.) Aside from the one interview conducted with Ms. Segura, Dr. Gardner did not, however, consult multiple outside sources as is recommended to corroborate the information that Miranda provided her. (Tr. at 76.)

* Dr. Gardner concluded that Miranda has impaired logic and that she is remarkably naïve, unsophisticated and concrete/literal in her thinking. (Tr. at 18.) Dr. Gardner did not conduct a cognitive screening exam to determine ...

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