925 F2d 1472 United States v. Watts
925 F.2d 1472
NOTICE: Ninth Circuit Rule 36-3 provides that dispositions other than opinions or orders designated for publication are not precedential and should not be cited except when relevant under the doctrines of law of the case, res judicata, or collateral estoppel.
UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
Redonda Renee WATTS, Defendant-Appellant.
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
Submitted Feb. 7, 1991.*
Decided Feb. 19, 1991.
Before GOODWIN, HUG and FARRIS, Circuit Judges.
Redonda Renee Watts appeals her conviction for possession with intent to distribute cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. Sec. 841(a)(1). Watts claims that the district court erred: (1) in finding that she voluntarily consented to the search of her luggage, and (2) in refusing to allow cross-examination of law enforcement officers on the issue of whether their interest in Watts was in whole or in part based upon her race. We affirm.
We review the district court's factual determination that voluntary consent was given for clear error. United States v. Vasquez, 858 F.2d 1387, 1389 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 488 U.S. 1034 and sub nom. Gomez v. United States, 489 U.S. 1029 (1989). At the suppression hearing, Watts claimed that the officers never spoke to her until they arrested her after apparently searching her bag. The district court found Watts's testimony not credible and accepted the officers' version of the facts instead. Accordingly, the court found that Watts had consented to a search of her bag after being approached by the officers and told that she was not under arrest, was free to go, and did not have to talk to them. Credibility is a question for the trier of fact; therefore, we give special deference to the trial court's credibility findings. Anderson v. City of Bessemer City, 470 U.S. 564, 573 (1984); S.E.C. v. Rogers, 790 F.2d 1450, 1455 (9th Cir.1986).
Watts next argues that the district court erred in disallowing cross-examination of the officers to determine whether she was approached and questioned by the officers at least in part because she is African American. The district court denied the cross-examination as irrelevant. We review for abuse of discretion. United States v. Bonanno, 852 F.2d 434, 439 (9th Cir.1988), cert. denied, 488 U.S. 1016 (1989).
Watts relies upon two cases to support her relevancy argument. The first, Arguelles-Vasquez v. I.N.S., 786 F.2d 1433 (9th Cir.1986), was vacated by 844 F.2d 700 (9th Cir.1988). In the second, United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U.S. 873 (1975), the Supreme Court held that the Fourth Amendment prohibited the Boarder Patrol from stopping a vehicle near the Mexican border and detaining its occupants solely because they appeared to be of Mexican ancestry.
This case is substantially different. Watts recognizes that, unlike in Brigoni-Ponce, her interchange with the officers was consensual and not a seizure within the Fourth Amendment. Further, even if the rationale of Brigoni-Ponce could be extended to all interactions between law enforcement and the public, the district court found, upon the record, that there were ample reasons to approach and speak with Watts, none predicated upon her race. We find no abuse of discretion.