WASHINGTON — A petition to the United States Supreme Court has been filed on behalf of a Worthington man that claims his constitutional right to cross examine a witness was violated during his 2016 trial in Nobles County District Court, which found him guilty of having sexual intercourse with a 12-year-old girl.
Cesar R. Ramos-Lopez, 22, has asked the nation's highest court to consider his case after being rejected by the Minnesota Court of Appeals and the Minnesota Supreme Court, which each upheld the district court’s ruling. Ramos-Lopez was sentenced to 12 years in prison sentence.
The request was filed on the argument that Ramos-Lopez’s Sixth Amendment Right to confront witnesses against him was violated when an interpreter who translated his statements admitting to having intercourse with the juvenile wasn’t identified or called to be questioned during Ramos-Lopez’s trial. At the trial, the defense objected to admitting the testimony due to not having the ability to cross-examine the interpreter, but the district court denied the objection.
Chief Appellate Public Defender Cathryn Middlebrook and her office is representing Ramos-Lopez’s case. In documents submitted to the Supreme Court, the Minnesota Appellate Public Defender’s Office argues that Ramos-Lopez’s case is an “ideal vehicle” to resolve a federal constitutional issue on which federal circuit courts and state courts are reportedly split.
At least one justice is interested in the case, so a response to the petition has been requested. The response, in which justices will consider a determination of whether or not to hear the case, is due Nov. 7. The case may be granted if four or more justices vote to hear it.
New Nobles County Attorney Joe Sanow told county commissioners that, to his knowledge, no one in his office is licensed to argue the case before the U.S. Supreme Court. He recommended commissioners approve a special contract with Murray County Attorney Travis Smith, also a private-practice attorney in Slayton, to represent the case, which Sanow said has “nationwide implications.” Smith is a member of the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States, a requirement to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.
“This is a very important case considering the underlying charges and implicates a public safety issue for all Nobles County residents,” Sanow told commissioners prior to their unanimous approval of the special contract with Smith, who also does appellate work for the county.
The contract amount will depend on the amount of work required, Sanow said.
According to Sanow, the contract will be less if the U.S. Supreme Court denies Ramos-Lopez’s request to hear the case.
The county will pay Smith $3,000 to fulfill the U.S. Supreme Court’s request for a response.
Given the current timeline, Smith expects the Supreme Court would consider whether or not to accept the case sometime in December. If the case is granted, Nobles County will pay an additional $17,000 for Smith’s work throughout the conclusion of the case.
Lopez-Ramos is currently in the Minnesota Commissioner Facility in Faribault, where his anticipated release date is scheduled for May 2024.