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Saturday, June 22, 2024 | Back issues
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Drug Conviction Saga Continues After Death

WASHINGTON (CN) - Law enforcement may have to shed light on the testimony of a key witness who admitted to committing perjury during a drug trial, a federal judge ruled.

Carlos Marino stood trial in 1997 for his involvement in an international cocaine ring known as the "Company," which funneled drugs from Colombia to the United States.

Jose Everth Lopez testified that Marino was the Company's money man.

"The government relied heavily on Lopez's testimony in its opening and closing remarks and at sentencing," according to the Wednesday ruling. "As Magistrate Judge M. Casey Rodgers later observed on collateral review, 'Lopez was the government's key witness at trial and was the primary witness who testified about defendant's involvement in a conspiracy that actually moved cocaine.'"

Lopez's testimony put Marino in prison for 365 months. The only problem was that Lopez was lying.

At the 1998 trial of the Company's Colombian drug lord Pastor Parafan-Homen, Lopez admitted that he lied several times during Marino's trial, according to the ruling.

Lopez also lied about his own involvement in the Company, Kessler wrote.

Marino sought information on Lopez under the Freedom of Information Act in 2004, but the Drug Enforcement Administration refused to either confirm or deny the existence of the records he sought.

Such an answer is known as a Glomar response, named after the Hughes Glomar Explorer, a ship used in a classified CIA project to raise a sunken Soviet submarine from the Pacific Ocean.

Marino sued the agency in 2006 and won limited discovery only after years of legal wrangling.

While "the government continued to equivocate on its Glomar response" in May 2013, Marino was released from prison with a diagnosis of terminal cancer.

He died in July and his wife Griselle took over the case, just after the parties concluded briefing the court on the issue of summary judgment.

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler denied either party relief Wednesday and ordered the DEA to release a Vaughn index, a requirement of Freedom of Information Act requests that indexes redacted and withheld information. The filing takes its name form the 1973 case Vaughn v. Rosen.

The 36-page decision shows little patience for the agency's maneuvers.

"Thus, although the government had been investigating the Parafan-Homen organization for years, and although DEA agents were in possession of information suggesting Lopez's involvement was more extensive than he led them to believe, the government produced only a single Form DEA-6 to Marino prior to trial, did not alert Marino to many of the inconsistencies between Lopez's trial testimony and his debriefing statements, and relied heavily on Lopez's testimony to argue that Marino should receive a sentencing enhancement based on his purportedly managerial role in the enterprise," Kessler wrote.

She added: "These circumstances satisfy Marino's evidentiary burden to show that the Government 'might' have fallen below an acceptable standard of care to ensure the integrity of the proceedings."

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