When Francisco Javier Munoz Quintero was arrested on Christmas Day for the fatal shooting of his ex-girlfriend, Kennewick police failed to let him know he could speak with a Mexican official.
The 20-year-old man told police in the first few minutes of the interview that he was born in Mexico, moved to the Tri-Cities when he was age 3 and attended Kennewick schools.
Detectives Jose Santoy and Dan Todd admitted in court Friday they “incorrectly assumed he was a U.S. citizen” and violated department policy by not advising Munoz Quintero of his right to contact a representative of his country’s government.
Under international law, or the Vienna Convention, a foreign national who’s been arrested or detained must be notified.
Munoz Quintero would have requested consular assistance if the detectives had properly informed him, said defense attorneys Alexandria Sheridan and Scott Johnson.
Since that offer never was made, it’s questionable if his statement to police was voluntary, knowingly and intelligently made, and therefore should be suppressed, the attorneys argued.
Munoz Quintero is accused of shooting Luisa A. Garcia Farias on Christmas Eve 2015, then pushing her out of the car in the middle of a Kennewick street and driving off without getting help.
I think the record is clear there is no dispute the detectives thought that he was a citizen, and that’s why they didn’t advise him of the consular notification. It was clear, given the statement he was born in Mexico, that they should have done that.
Prosecutor Andy Miller
The couple’s 22-month-old daughter was in the backseat during the incident.
Garcia Farias, 21, was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Munoz Quintero claims he had asked Garcia Farias for a ride from Mabton to Kennewick that night, and at some point asked her for another chance. She denied his request to rekindle their relationship.
He is charged in Benton County Superior Court with second-degree murder with a firearm. The charge includes aggravating circumstances of domestic violence and that the crime had a destructive and foreseeable impact on others.
Trial is set for May 16.
On Friday, Prosecutor Andy Miller asked if the detectives’ failure to follow Kennewick Police Department policy and the law is grounds to toss the statements before trial.
“I think the record is clear there is no dispute the detectives thought that he was a citizen, and that’s why they didn’t advise him of the consular notification,” Miller said. “It was clear, given the statement he was born in Mexico, that they should have done that.”
Police Chief Ken Hohenberg is aware of the situation and will address it in the department, he said.
However, there is no known case in the entire country that would support the defense request, so Judge Jackie Shea Brown is being asked to be the first and to defy case law in Washington, Miller said.
He noted that the state Court of Appeals decided 16 years ago that failure to give consular notification cannot be considered in suppression issues.
Shea Brown listened to testimony from a corrections officer with the Benton County jail and three Kennewick detectives. At the end of the three-hour hearing, she announced she would issue a written decision Monday.
The judge also is being asked to suppress the one-hour, 10-minute interview because Santoy and Todd talked with the suspect about his background for five minutes before reading his Miranda rights.
Santoy said during that short time period, they did not ask Munoz Quintero about the crime or his relationship with Garcia Farias. They went through his constitutional rights with him once they knew it was time to start the interrogation.
“It was just to build a rapport with the suspect, make him feel comfortable during the interview,” Santoy testified.
On a portion of the recording played Friday, Santoy can be heard telling Munoz Quintero that he’s taking responsibility as a man and turning himself in, “and right away I have respect for that.”
Miller said there is no evidence that the short conversation with Munoz Quintero about his upbringing was subtle coercion or to overcome his will.
Munoz Quintero made the decision that he needed to give a statement about what happened, which is consistent with his decision to turn himself into the jail on Christmas Day.
Johnson argued that it is not a lawful statement because the detectives waited to read the rights, instead of giving them at the “commencement” of the interview, as required.