State v. Candelaria

CourtSupreme Court of New Mexico
Citation434 P.3d 297
Docket NumberNO. S-1-SC-35887,S-1-SC-35887
Parties STATE of New Mexico, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. David CANDELARIA, Defendant-Appellant.
Decision Date13 December 2018

434 P.3d 297

STATE of New Mexico, Plaintiff-Appellee,
David CANDELARIA, Defendant-Appellant.

NO. S-1-SC-35887

Supreme Court of New Mexico.

Filing Date: December 13, 2018

John A. McCall, Law Works, LLC, Albuquerque, NM, for Appellant

Hector H. Balderas, Attorney General, Maris Veidemanis, Assistant Attorney General, Santa Fe, NM, for Appellee

VIGIL, Justice.

{1} This case stems from the tragic death of an innocent eight-year-old child as a result of a violent confrontation between two groups of men. Consequently, a jury convicted David Candelaria (Defendant) of first-degree depraved mind murder, two counts of shooting at or from a motor vehicle, and three counts of aggravated assault. One count of shooting at or from a motor vehicle was later vacated on double jeopardy grounds. The district court sentenced Defendant to life in prison plus nine years. Defendant now appeals his convictions for depraved mind murder and aggravated assault and asks this Court to vacate the convictions or order a new trial. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm Defendant’s convictions and deny the relief requested.


{2} On the morning of May 31, 2013, Defendant and his son, David Candelaria, Jr. (David Jr.), went to the home of Richard Turrieta, Sr. (Richard Sr.) on the west side of Albuquerque. Defendant and Richard Sr. had been close friends since high school. Sometime later that afternoon, the group—Defendant, David Jr., Richard Sr., and Richard Turrieta, Jr. (Richard Jr.)—left Richard Sr.’s house and drove to Nine Mile Hill, west of Albuquerque, to take Defendant’s truck "four-wheeling." Defendant’s truck got stuck in the sand and could not be freed, so the group started walking back to town. A nearby resident gave them a ride to Coors Boulevard and Bridge Boulevard, where the group began walking east of Coors toward the Alamosa Community Center (community center). Richard Sr. testified that as the group

434 P.3d 300

was walking north to Gonzales Road, a vehicle, later determined to be driven by Rudy Chavez Montoya (Rudy), which was also traveling north towards Gonzales Road, pulled close to the curb and stopped a few feet away from Defendant’s group. According to Richard Sr., Richard Sr. asked Rudy for a ride and Rudy cursed at him, made a quick u-turn, and tried to run the group down as the group was walking on Airport Drive, the road that goes into the community center. Rudy, on the other hand, testified that he was headed toward the community center on Airport Drive to pick up some friends when he encountered the group "blocking the road." He explained that the group was walking in the middle of the road, away from the community center. He said the group approached him and asked him for a ride, and Rudy responded that he could not give the group a ride because he was picking up friends and his vehicle was full. Rudy testified that Defendant’s group was "mad" when Rudy refused to pick them up. David Jr. testified that Rudy spoke to the group saying, "You guys look familiar," to which Richard Jr. replied, "Don’t act hard." Witness testimony differed as to the actual words exchanged by the parties and whether Rudy attempted to run over Defendant’s group during this first encounter. According to Richard Sr., approximately twenty minutes passed before his group encountered Rudy again.

{3} Rudy proceeded to the community center where he picked up his friend, Troy Fontanelle (Troy), Troy’s younger brother Logan Fontanelle (Logan), and Troy’s eight-year-old daughter, Sunni Reza (Sunni). Rudy sat in the driver’s seat, Logan in the front passenger seat, Troy in the back seat behind Logan, and Sunni in the back middle seat beside Troy. Logan testified that Rudy told them about the incident with Defendant’s group after Rudy picked up Logan and the others. Rudy and his passengers then headed north on Airport Drive toward Gonzales Road to pick up Rudy’s daughter at his sister’s house at 60th Street and Gonzales Road. Rudy testified that when he turned right onto Gonzales Road, Defendant’s group jumped into the road, causing Rudy to stop his vehicle. Logan testified that Defendant’s group was about a half a block away, but was walking toward them. Richard Sr. testified that the driver stopped on Gonzales Road; and according to Richard Jr., the vehicle was about eighty to one hundred yards away from Defendant’s group. Logan testified that he was seated in the front passenger seat of Rudy’s vehicle and could hear Defendant’s group yelling at them. He testified that he got out of Rudy’s vehicle and said, "Why are you guys trying to jump my friend?" Rudy told the police that Logan had also asked Defendant’s group if the group wanted to fight. Rudy testified that after Logan got out of the vehicle someone in Defendant’s group started shooting. Logan testified that he heard gunshots and then saw one bullet hit the ground in front of him when he was standing outside Rudy’s vehicle. He said he then jumped in the vehicle and at that point the next shot came through the windshield. This was the shot that hit Sunni. Rudy testified that he tried to run over Defendant’s group with his vehicle after the group started shooting, but the group ran into an alley. He said that during the shooting he turned the vehicle around to avoid the bullets, headed towards Coors Boulevard, and realized that Sunni had been shot. Rudy drove Sunni to a nearby fire station for assistance and the fire department then took Sunni to the hospital. Sunni died of a gunshot wound to the forehead.

{4} David Jr. testified that a person got out of Rudy’s vehicle on the passenger side and he thought someone in the vehicle "possibly" had "a handgun or a rifle," but they were a "hundred yards out" and he "couldn’t get a clear description of what it was." When police asked David Jr. who fired the shots, however, he said, "I’m pretty sure it was our party." In a statement to police, Defendant said that a person jumped out from what appeared to be the front passenger side of Rudy’s vehicle with a machine gun. Defendant also told police that the person was pointing a rifle straight at him. Richard Sr. testified that it seemed like the driver, as well as a passenger, exited Rudy’s vehicle but stayed behind the doors, and when they got out of the vehicle he and Richard Jr. fled the scene. Richard Sr. indicated that he was

434 P.3d 301

too far from the vehicle to be able to see if anyone in Rudy’s vehicle had a weapon. Rudy and Logan testified that no one in Rudy’s vehicle had a weapon or a firearm.

{5} David Jr. testified that Defendant had a handgun on him that day that had been retrieved from Defendant’s truck at Nine Mile Hill when Defendant’s group left the truck to walk back into town. It is unclear from the testimony who retrieved the gun from Defendant’s truck. David Jr. testified that during this second encounter with Rudy’s vehicle, Defendant fired the gun twice in the air and twice at the vehicle. In his statement to police, Defendant admitted firing the gun twice in the air and twice at the vehicle. David Jr. testified that he and Defendant then ran. David Jr. further testified that when Defendant dropped the gun, David Jr. picked it up and tried to hide it under a building. Officers testified to finding the gun under a portable school building. David Jr. later pled guilty to possession of a gun on school grounds and tampering with evidence.

{6} The State introduced two witness statements given to police that indicated that one of the occupants in Rudy’s vehicle may have had a pistol and that one of the occupants was possibly shooting from the vehicle. An officer testified that police used those statements to obtain search warrants for locations where Rudy was believed to have gone after the incident. Officers found a rifle in Rudy’s parents’ home, but Rudy’s parents testified that it did not work and Rudy’s mother said their children did not even know about it.

{7} Detectives found five shell casings in the road that matched the cartridges in Defendant’s gun that was hidden under the school building. No other shell casings were found at the scene and no firearms or rifles were found in Rudy’s vehicle.


A. Depraved Mind Murder in New Mexico

{8} We begin our examination of Defendant’s convictions with an explanation of depraved mind murder in New Mexico. In New Mexico, depraved mind murder is classified as a first-degree offense. See NMSA 1978, § 30-2-1(A)(3) (1994). As such, depraved mind murder is a capital felony, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. See NMSA 1978, § 31-20A-2 (2009). Depraved mind murder is defined as "the killing of one human being by another without lawful justification or excuse ... by any act greatly dangerous to the lives of others, indicating a depraved mind regardless of human life." Section 30-2-1(A)(3).

{9} Our courts, receiving little guidance from our Legislature, have struggled to distinguish first-degree depraved mind murder from second-degree murder. Although the parties do not address the fine distinction between depraved mind murder and second-degree murder in their briefing, we take this opportunity to define the distinction between the two types of murder in an effort to assist parties and lower courts in the future. Second-degree murder, which...

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    • April 12, 2021 so doubtful that it would shock the judicial conscience to allow the conviction to stand. State v. Candelaria , 2019-NMSC-004, ¶ 31, 434 P.3d 297 (quoting State v. Johnson , 2010-NMSC-016, ¶ 25, 148 N.M. 50, 229 P.3d 523 (internal quotation marks omitted)).{30} The trial court did not co......
  • State v. Figueroa, A-1-CA-36391
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    ...determine whether the defendant's conviction was the result of a plain miscarriage of justice." State v. Candelaria , 2019-NMSC-004, ¶ 31, 434 P.3d 297 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). To the extent that our analysis involves issues of statutory interpretation, our review is......
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    ...given by the district court is a mixed question of law and fact requiring de novo review." State v. Candelaria , 2019-NMSC-004, ¶ 31, 434 P.3d 297. Defendant concedes he failed to preserve any error with respect to instructing the jury, thus we review only for fundamental error. See Rule 12......
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