42 P.3d 814 (N.M. 2002), 26,108, State v. Trujillo

Docket Nº:26,108.
Citation:42 P.3d 814, 131 N.M. 709, 2002 -NMSC- 5
Opinion Judge:[7] The opinion of the court was delivered by: Baca, Justice
Party Name:STATE of New Mexico, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Chris TRUJILLO, Defendant-Appellant.
Attorney:Freedman, Boyd, Daniels, Hollander, Goldberg & Cline, P.A.,Lisa N. Cassidy, Albuquerque, NM, Phyllis H. Subin, Chief Public Defender, Nancy M. Hewitt, Assistant Appellate Defender, Santa Fe, NM, for Appellant., Patricia A. Madrid, Attorney General, M. Anne Kelly, Assistant Attorney General, Santa...
Case Date:February 05, 2002
Court:Supreme Court of New Mexico
 
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Page 814

42 P.3d 814 (N.M. 2002)

131 N.M. 709, 2002 -NMSC- 5

STATE of New Mexico, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Chris TRUJILLO, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 26,108.

Supreme Court of New Mexico

February 5, 2002.

Rehearing Denied March 19, 2002.

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[131 N.M. 713] Freedman, Boyd, Daniels, Hollander, Goldberg & Cline, P.A.,Lisa N. Cassidy, Albuquerque, NM, Phyllis H. Subin, Chief Public Defender, Nancy M. Hewitt, Assistant Appellate Defender, Santa Fe, NM, for Appellant.

Patricia A. Madrid, Attorney General, M. Anne Kelly, Assistant Attorney General, Santa Fe, NM, for appellee.

OPINION

BACA, Justice.

{1} Defendant Chris Trujillo was convicted of first-degree depraved-mind murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree depraved-mind murder, aggravated assault, conspiracy to commit aggravated battery, conspiracy to commit shooting at a dwelling or occupied building (great bodily harm), conspiracy to commit shooting at a dwelling or occupied building (resulting in injury), shooting at a dwelling or occupied building (no injury), and conspiracy to commit shooting at a dwelling or occupied building (no injury). 1 The jury found Defendant not guilty of aggravated battery, aggravated assault, shooting at a dwelling or occupied building (great bodily injury), and shooting at a dwelling or occupied building (resulting in injury).

{2} Pursuant to Rule 12-102(A)(1) NMRA 2002, Defendant raises the following issues on appeal: (1) the admission of the tape and transcript of Joseph Ortiz's out-of-court statement violated Defendant's constitutional right to confrontation and due process because it was inadmissible impeachment and hearsay evidence; (2) his conviction for first-degree depraved-mind murder violated due process of law because sufficient evidence did not support the conviction on any theory; (3) Defendant was convicted of a crime that does not exist--conspiracy to commit depraved-mind murder; (4) there was no evidence that Defendant shot at a dwelling or occupied building; (5) Defendant's trial counsel's performance constituted ineffective assistance of counsel; (6) the prosecutor's acts of misconduct distorted the evidence on the issue of identification, depriving Defendant of due process and a fair trial; (7) the conspiracy charges and Defendant's convictions violate the Double Jeopardy Clause because there is no evidence of any agreement or agreements to support separate charges; (8) the above constitute cumulative error that denied Defendant due process and a fair trial; and (9) Defendant's sentence is disproportionate and in violation of the state and federal constitutional prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment. We affirm Defendant's convictions for first-degree depraved-mind murder and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery. We vacate Defendant's conviction for conspiracy to commit depraved-mind murder and reverse Defendant's convictions for conspiracy to commit shooting at a dwelling or occupied building (great bodily harm), conspiracy to commit shooting at a dwelling or occupied building (resulting in injury), shooting at a dwelling or occupied building (no

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[131 N.M. 714] injury), and conspiracy to commit shooting at a dwelling or occupied building (no injury).

I.

{3} On July 3, 1997, Defendant and Charlie Allison were outside on a second-floor apartment balcony in the Barelas neighborhood of Albuquerque when they became involved in an argument with four men located at ground level: Joseph Ortiz, Juan Ortega, Jesus Canas, and Javier Mendez. As a result of this argument, shots were fired from the upstairs balcony at a downward angle, killing Mendez and wounding Canas. The State introduced evidence that Defendant and Allison were members of the Barelas gang, and that Ortega, Canas, and Mendez were members of a rival gang, the Juaritos Maravilla.

{4} Ortiz, Allison's cousin, was a former Barelas gang member who had been "ranked out" and was apparently no longer welcome in the area. He testified that he had planned to meet up with Mendez at the apartments on the day of the shooting and that soon after he arrived he heard an argument and gunshots. Shortly after the shots were fired, Ortiz ran after Mendez and found him lying face down in the alley. However, Ortiz apparently could not recall more specific details of the shooting, including who fired the gun. As a result, the prosecutor played the tape of an interview between Ortiz and Detective Shawn conducted a few hours after Mendez was killed. In that interview Ortiz stated that he did not recognize the shooters but described them as a "little guy" wearing light blue jeans and a striped shirt, presumably Defendant, and a "big guy" wearing black jeans and a black t-shirt, presumably Allison. According to Ortiz, even though the bigger guy asked for the gun, the little guy did not want to give it to him, telling the four down below, "You guys think I'm joking," before he began shooting.

{5} Ortega testified that someone on the balcony asked the four men what they were doing in the Barelas neighborhood and that Mendez responded, "We could be anywhere we want, Juaritos." Immediately thereafter shots were fired down at them from the balcony. Ortega stated that Allison was the original shooter, firing two or three times at Mendez, and then Defendant took the gun and shot at Canas and Ortega. On the night of the shooting, Ortega identified Defendant as one of the shooters from a photo array shown to him by Detective Shawn. Ortega again identified Defendant at trial as the second shooter.

{6} Detective Doug Shawn, the officer assigned to the case, testified that he interviewed several eyewitnesses to the shooting, all of whom identified Defendant as one of the shooters and indicated that only one gun had been used. Detective Shawn stated that on the night of the shooting Ortega identified Defendant as one of the shooters from a photo lineup and that he recorded this identification. He also testified that Ortiz identified Defendant as one of the shooters from a photo lineup as well but refused to have his identification recorded.

II.

{7} Defendant was tried, convicted, and sentenced for first-degree murder as a serious youthful offender pursuant to NMSA 1978, § 31-18-15.3(D) (1993), which allows a district court to "sentence the offender to less than, but not exceeding, the mandatory term for an adult." NMSA 1978, § 31-18-14(A) (1993) grants the district court discretion in sentencing minors who have been convicted of a capital felony: "[I]f the defendant has not reached the age of majority at the time of the commission of the capital felony for which he was convicted, he may be sentenced to life imprisonment but shall not be punished by death." (Emphasis added.) Exercising this discretion, the trial court sentenced Defendant to a "term of THIRTY (30) YEARS, BUT NOT LIFE" for his first-degree murder conviction. The trial court also provided that "[i]t is this Court's intention that the Defendant be eligible for good time credit as to the sentence imposed." (Emphasis omitted.) Defendant invoked this Court's mandatory appellate jurisdiction based on his first-degree murder conviction and because he was sentenced to thirty years in prison.

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[131 N.M. 715] {8} This Court's mandatory appellate jurisdiction is not based on a prison sentence to a term of years, nor is it based on a first-degree murder conviction. Our mandatory appellate jurisdiction is constitutional and is limited to "[a]ppeals from a judgment of the district court imposing a sentence of death or life imprisonment." N.M. Const. art. VI, § 2. This Constitutional provision is buttressed by Rule 12-102(A)(1) and NMSA 1978, § 34-5-8(A)(3) (1983) which reiterate this limitation to our jurisdiction. Rule 12-102(A)(1) provides that "appeals from the district courts in which a sentence of death or life imprisonment has been imposed" shall be taken to the Supreme Court. Section 34-5-8(A)(3) indicates that the Court of Appeals has appellate jurisdiction over criminal actions, "except those in which a judgment of the district court imposes a sentence of death or life imprisonment." (Emphasis added.) While a life sentence has never been interpreted to mean a sentence to imprisonment for the duration of the defendant's natural life, it has been interpreted to mean thirty years of imprisonment before the possibility of parole or reduction of sentence through good time credits. See Martinez v. State, 108 N.M. 382, 383, 772 P.2d 1305, 1306 (1989). Defendant in this case was sentenced to thirty years of imprisonment, with the judge explicitly providing that he be eligible for good time credit. This case raises the unique jurisdictional issue of whether a serious youthful offender convicted of first-degree murder is allowed to invoke our mandatory appellate jurisdiction even though he is sentenced to less than life imprisonment due to the discretion afforded district court judges when sentencing serious youthful offenders convicted of a capital felony.

{9} We conclude that serious youthful offenders convicted of first-degree murder shall be allowed to invoke this Court's mandatory appellate jurisdiction under Article VI, Section 2 of the New Mexico Constitution and Rule 12-102(A)(1). In New Mexico, "[w]hoever commits murder in the first degree is guilty of a capital felony." Section 30-2-1. "When a defendant has been convicted of a capital felony, he shall be punished by life imprisonment or death." Section 31-18-14(A). Thus, under our law, adults convicted of first-degree murder may appeal directly to the Supreme Court, as of right, because they will always be sentenced to life imprisonment or...

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