State v. Carrera

Citation517 P.3d 440
Decision Date18 August 2022
Docket Number20181053-CA
Parties STATE of Utah, Appellee, v. Roland David CARRERA, Appellant.
CourtCourt of Appeals of Utah

517 P.3d 440

STATE of Utah, Appellee,
Roland David CARRERA, Appellant.

No. 20181053-CA

Court of Appeals of Utah.

Filed August 18, 2022

Aaron P. Dodd, Provo, Attorney for Appellant

Sean D. Reyes, Salt Lake City, and David A. Simpson, Attorneys for Appellee

Judge Ryan M. Harris authored this Opinion, in which Judge Jill M. Pohlman and Justice Diana Hagen concurred as to Parts I and III. Justice Hagen authored a separate Opinion as to Part II in which Judge Pohlman concurred.1


HARRIS, Judge:

¶1 A jury found Roland David Carrera guilty of several serious crimes, including aggravated kidnapping and various sexual offenses. At trial, Carrera's former fiancée (Betty2 ) testified that Carrera had held her at knifepoint, cut her neck, punctured her shoulder, made her strip naked, and forced her to engage in sexual acts. Carrera now appeals his convictions, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence on some of his convictions and asserting that his trial attorney rendered ineffective assistance that he believes affected all of his convictions. For the reasons discussed herein, we find merit in many of Carrera's arguments. We vacate one of Carrera's convictions for forcible sodomy and remand with instructions for acquittal on that count. And we vacate Carrera's other convictions, including the conviction for aggravated kidnapping, on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel, and remand this case for a new trial or other proceedings consistent with this opinion.

517 P.3d 445


¶2 In 2017, Carrera and Betty lived together in Milford, Utah with their baby boy and Betty's fifteen-year-old son from a previous relationship. Their relationship had been good at first but worsened over time, with Carrera often accusing Betty of cheating on him. After their child was born, the relationship deteriorated even further and became tense. One summer evening, when the baby was about four months old, Carrera and Betty, along with the baby, made the approximately two-hour drive to a town just across the Arizona border to pick up a car from Betty's mother.

¶3 When they arrived in Arizona, Carrera loaded the car onto a trailer. Betty's mother then offered to watch the baby while the couple visited the casinos in nearby Mesquite, Nevada. While at the casinos, Carrera became "[r]eally drunk." On their way back to her mother's house, Betty told Carrera that she wanted him to move out. After picking up the baby, Carrera and Betty then drove back toward Milford and "were fighting the whole time" about Carrera moving out. As they approached Milford, Carrera—who was driving—did not proceed directly home but, instead, expressed a desire to visit the residence of one of Betty's coworkers (Coworker), with whom he believed Betty was having an affair. By this point, it was approximately 2:00 a.m. When Betty refused to show Carrera where Coworker lived, Carrera pulled a knife from his pocket, held it to Betty's neck, and demanded to know where Coworker lived. Betty then directed Carrera to Coworker's house, where Carrera—still with the knife to her neck—told Betty that he was going to take her to the door, kill her, and let Coworker watch as she bled to death.

¶4 Carrera did not follow through on this threat, but he did make a shallow cut on Betty's neck with the knife. With Betty now bleeding from her neck, Carrera put the car into gear and drove away from Coworker's house, telling Betty that he was going to go visit two of her friends—both of whom lived nearby—and that he was going to kill them and their children in retribution for their alleged involvement in the supposed affair between Betty and Coworker. But Carrera did not follow through with this threat either, and instead drove into a nearby canyon.

¶5 On their way up the canyon, Carrera instructed Betty to take off her clothes and told her that he was going to drop her off and force her to walk back home naked. He then forced Betty out of the truck and she began walking, but Carrera made her return to the truck once he saw that they were close to a campground. Soon thereafter, Carrera undid his pants and attempted "to insert his penis into [Betty's] anus." Betty asked him to "please stop," which he eventually did, but Carrera then inserted his fingers into Betty's anus "two or three times." A few minutes later, Carrera punctured Betty's shoulder with the knife and again inserted his fingers into her anus as well as her vagina.

¶6 Carrera then drove back down the canyon, and Betty asked him to take her home, assuring him that she would never tell anyone about what had happened that night. Carrera told her that if she did tell anyone, he would kill her and her family. The couple eventually returned to their house, and Betty took the baby inside to put him to sleep. She then got dressed and went into the kitchen, where Carrera had poured shots of tequila. Betty told Carrera that she did not want to drink, but Carrera insisted. When Betty drank the shot, she started to vomit, which caused the wound on her neck—which had stopped bleeding—to reopen and start to bleed again. Betty and Carrera then proceeded to the bedroom, where Carrera took Betty's clothes off, performed oral sex on her, and had vaginal intercourse with her. Betty testified that she was "scared" and "just did whatever [Carrera] told [her] to do." After Carrera had fallen asleep, Betty took the knife from his shorts, woke up her fifteen-year-old son, and told him to hide the knife

517 P.3d 446

under his mattress. Betty then explained to her son some of what had happened, and at that point, they—along with the baby—left the home and went to Betty's father's house. Soon after they arrived, Betty's father called the police. Betty was then taken to the hospital for examination of her injuries.

¶7 After investigation, the State charged Carrera with various crimes, including one count of aggravated kidnapping, five counts of object rape, three counts of forcible sodomy, one count of rape, one count of aggravated sexual assault, one count of aggravated assault, one count of commission of domestic violence in the presence of a child, and three counts of threat of violence.4

¶8 Very early on in the case, long before trial, Carrera filed a motion to change venue, asserting that because Betty's family is well-known within Beaver County, and because of the "inaccurate rumors that have permeated the Beaver County communities stemming from" the allegations against him, Carrera would not receive a fair trial in Beaver County. The trial court denied this motion.

¶9 Also prior to trial, the State filed a motion seeking to introduce evidence, pursuant to rule 404(b) of the Utah Rules of Evidence, that Carrera had committed various bad acts in the past, including on one occasion brandishing a knife and on another occasion stabbing someone in the stomach. After oral argument, the court denied the State's motion, concluding, among other things, that any probative value these incidents might have was substantially outweighed by the risk of unfair prejudice.

¶10 The case proceeded to a three-day jury trial. During jury selection, the court asked the members of the jury pool if they knew any of the potential witnesses in the case. In response, a potential juror (Juror) stated that one of the law enforcement officers (Deputy) who had investigated the case was married to her cousin. The court then asked Juror if she would give more weight to Deputy's testimony because she was familiar with him. Juror responded affirmatively, and indicated that she would give his testimony more weight "because I trust him." Carrera's attorney (Trial Counsel) did not challenge Juror for cause or use a peremptory strike to remove her from the jury venire, and Juror ultimately sat as a juror during the trial. After the jury was selected, Trial Counsel passed on the jury for cause.

¶11 During his opening statement, the prosecutor referred to Betty as "the victim," stating that the blood on the knife "belonged to the victim, [Betty]." Trial Counsel likewise referred to Betty as a "victim" during his opening, stating that the prosecutor was only relaying one side of the story, i.e., "what his victim said."

¶12 In support of its case-in-chief, the State called various witnesses, including Betty, who testified about the events as described above. Before cross-examining Betty, Trial Counsel informed the court—outside the presence of the jury—that he was going to use a video recording of Betty's police interview as part of his questioning, but that he would be using only certain parts, because there were other parts of the interview that "go into" the rule 404(b) evidence that the court had already ruled was inadmissible. During cross-examination, however, Trial Counsel—apparently by mistake—played for the jury a portion of the video recording in which Betty discussed Carrera's prior violent incidents. In particular, the jury heard Betty say, "He's—he's done this before, like I know you know—I know there was times, because like I said, he—there was, you know, charges of stabbing somebody else."

¶13 The State then called the doctor (Doctor) who examined Betty's injuries at the hospital. When Betty arrived at the hospital, the wound on her neck "was not actively bleeding" and "appear[ed] to be superficial." By the time Doctor saw...

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