Ramos v. State

Decision Date14 July 2022
Docket Number13-17-00429-CR
PartiesENRIQUE ANGEL RAMOS, Appellant, v. THE STATE OF TEXAS, Appellee.
CourtTexas Court of Appeals

Do not publish. Tex.R.App.P. 47.2 (b).

On appeal from the 206th District Court of Hidalgo County Texas.

Before Chief Justice Contreras and Justices Hinojosa and Tijerina

MEMORANDUM OPINION ON REMAND

LETICIA HINOJOSA, Justice.

By memorandum opinion and judgment dated July 23, 2020, this Court affirmed appellant Enrique Angel Ramos's conviction for continuous sexual abuse of a child but vacated his conviction for prohibited sexual conduct on double jeopardy grounds.[1] See Ramos v. State, No. 13-17-00429-CR, 2020 WL 4219574, at *11 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi-Edinburg July 23 2020) (mem. op., not designated for publication), rev'd, 636 S.W.3d 646 (Tex. Crim. App. 2021). On the State's petition for discretionary review, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed that portion of our judgment vacating the prohibited sexual conduct conviction and remanded the case for further consideration of Ramos's remaining issue challenging the sufficiency of the evidence supporting that conviction. See Ramos, 636 S.W.3d at 657-58 (concluding that "continuous sexual abuse of a child and prohibited sexual conduct are not the same offense for purposes of a multiple-punishments double-jeopardy analysis"). In that issue, Ramos argues that there is legally insufficient evidence that the complainant, Alicia Gonzalez, [2] was his stepdaughter. We affirm.

I. Legal Sufficiency[3]

A. Standard of Review & Applicable Law

In reviewing the legal sufficiency of the evidence, we consider all the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict and determine whether any rational fact finder could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt based on the evidence and reasonable inferences from that evidence. Whatley v. State, 445 S.W.3d 159, 166 (Tex. Crim. App. 2014); Brooks v. State, 323 S.W.3d 893, 898-99 (Tex. Crim. App. 2010) (plurality op.). The fact finder is the exclusive judge of the facts, the credibility of witnesses, and the weight to be given their testimony. Brooks, 323 S.W.3d at 899. We resolve any evidentiary inconsistencies in favor of the judgment. Id.

We measure the legal sufficiency of the evidence in reference to the elements of the offense as defined by a hypothetically correct jury charge. Villarreal v. State, 286 S.W.3d 321, 327 (Tex. Crim. App. 2009); Malik v. State, 953 S.W.2d 234, 240 (Tex. Crim. App. 1997). "Such a charge [is] one that accurately sets out the law, is authorized by the indictment, does not unnecessarily increase the State's burden of proof or unnecessarily restrict the State's theories of liability, and adequately describes the particular offense for which the defendant was tried." Villarreal, 286 S.W.3d at 327 (quoting Malik, 953 S.W.2d at 240).

The indictment in this case charged Ramos with committing prohibited sexual conduct by intentionally or knowingly engaging in sexual intercourse with Alicia, a person Ramos knew to be, without regard to legitimacy, Ramos's stepchild.[4] See Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 25.02(a)(2). Thus, a hypothetically correct jury charge in this case would require the State to prove that: (1) Ramos, (2) engaged in sexual intercourse with Alicia, (3) Alicia was Ramos's stepdaughter, and (4) Ramos knew that Alicia was his stepdaughter. See id. Ramos challenges only the third element of the offense, arguing that there was legally insufficient evidence to establish that Alicia was Ramos's stepdaughter.

The term stepdaughter is not defined by the Texas Penal Code. Therefore, we "may articulate a definition [of the term] in assessing the sufficiency of the evidence[.]" Kirsch v. State, 357 S.W.3d 645, 651 (Tex. Crim. App. 2012); see Green v. State, 476 S.W.3d 440, 445 (Tex. Crim. App. 2015). In doing so, we look to the common, ordinary meaning of the word. Williams v. State, 270 S.W.3d 140, 146 (Tex. Crim. App. 2008); see Medford v. State, 13 S.W.3d 769, 771-72 (Tex. Crim. App. 2000) (explaining that "terms not legislatively defined are typically to be understood as ordinary usage allows, and jurors may thus give them any meaning which is acceptable in common parlance"). "In determining the ordinary and common meaning of an undefined word in a statute, we may consider dictionary definitions." Davis v. State, 533 S.W.3d 498, 506 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi-Edinburg 2017, pet. refd) (citing Ex parte Rieck, 144 S.W.3d 510, 512 (Tex. Crim. App. 2004)). Stepdaughter is defined as "a daughter of one's wife or husband by a former partner[.]" Stepdaughter, Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stepdaughter (last visited Jun. 21, 2022).

B. Pertinent Facts

In Ramos's recorded interview with law enforcement, he identified Alicia's mother C.E. as his wife, explaining that they are married by common law. Ramos stated that the two resided together and had four children of their own. He explained that C.E. had two children from a prior relationship, including Alicia. He described that he and C.E. had "form[ed] a family." In his signed written statement, Ramos stated that Alicia is his stepchild.

At trial, Ramos testified that C.E. was his wife and that they had been together for nine to ten years. He identified Alicia as his daughter. He explained that Alicia was three years old when he began a "family relationship" with C.E. Ramos asserted that he was the sole provider for his family. During her testimony, C.E. identified Ramos's sister as her sister-in-law. C.E. testified that she lived with Ramos for approximately ten years and that the couple "held each other out as husband and wife." During her testimony, Alicia identified Ramos as her stepfather, and she stated that she called him "dad" when they lived together.

C. Analysis

Citing the law governing family law proceedings, Ramos maintains that there was legally insufficient evidence of a common-law marriage between himself and C.E. as necessary to establish that Alicia was his stepdaughter. However, Ramos's argument ignores his own testimony that he was Alicia's stepfather and that he was married to Alicia's mother. A rational trier of fact could have found that Alicia was Ramos's stepdaughter beyond a reasonable doubt based on Ramos's trial admission alone.[5] See Hernandez v. State, 610 S.W.3d 106, 110 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2020, pet. ref'd) (holding that "the jury could have found the essential elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt" based on defendant's own testimony); Barrios v. State, 389 S.W.3d 382, 400 (Tex. App.-Texarkana 2012, pet. ref'd) (concluding that defendant's own testimony established he was guilty of murder); Gruber v. State, 812 S.W.2d 368, 370 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi-Edinburg 1991, pet. refd) (defendant's own testimony was sufficient to establish that he was the driver of the vehicle in a driving while intoxicated prosecution); cf. Bryant v. State, 187 S.W.3d 397, 402 (Tex. Crim. App. 2005) (holding that the defendant's stipulation to a prior offense waived any challenge to the absence of proof of the prior offense); Davidson v. State, 737 S.W.2d 942, 948 (Tex. App.-Amarillo 1987, pet. refd) (holding that appellant was estopped from arguing on appeal that the State did not prove the victim's cause of death where appellant's counsel stated on the record at trial that cause of death was not in dispute).

Even assuming, for the sake of argument, that Ramos's trial admission alone is insufficient, we conclude there is otherwise legally sufficient evidence of a common-law marriage. A common-law marriage may be established upon proof of the following elements: "(1) an agreement to be married, (2) after the agreement, the couple lived together in this state as husband and wife, and (3) the couple represented to others that they were married." Russell v. Russell, 865 S.W.2d 929, 932 (Tex. 1993). These elements are now codified under § 2.401(a)(2) of the Texas Family Code.[6] See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 2.401(a)(2). A common-law marriage, "may be shown by the conduct of the parties, or by such circumstances as their addressing each other as husband and wife, acknowledging their children as legitimate, joining in conveyances as spouses, and occupying the same dwelling place." Estate of Claveria v. Claveria, 615 S.W.2d 164, 166 (Tex. 1981). "To establish that the parties agreed to be husband and wife, it must be shown that they intended to create an immediate and permanent marriage relationship, not merely a temporary cohabitation that may be ended by either party." Burden v. Burden, 420 S.W.3d 305, 308 (Tex. App.-Texarkana 2013, no pet.). "Proof of cohabitation and representations to others that the couple are married may constitute circumstantial evidence of an agreement to be married." Russell, 865 S.W.2d at 933; see also Bays v. Bays, No. 13-20-00202-CV, 2021 WL 3777143, at *3 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi-Edinburg Aug. 26, 2021, pet. denied) (mem. op.).

Here there is evidence of all three elements. With regard to the second and third elements, it is undisputed that Ramos and C.E. lived together in Texas for approximately ten years and that they represented to others that they were married. In communications with law enforcement, Ramos repeatedly identified C.E. as his wife, while C.E. testified that she and Ramos "held each other out as husband and wife." Evidence of the second and third elements may be considered as circumstantial evidence of an agreement to be married. See Russell, 865 S.W.2d at 933. Additionally, during their approximate decade-long cohabitation, Ramos and C.E. had four children, whom they raised and supported together along with C.E.'s two...

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