State v. Grubb

Decision Date01 October 2019
Docket NumberNo. A-1-CA-36177,A-1-CA-36177
Citation455 P.3d 877
Parties STATE of New Mexico, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Joseph A. GRUBB, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtCourt of Appeals of New Mexico

455 P.3d 877

STATE of New Mexico, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Joseph A. GRUBB, Defendant-Appellant.

No. A-1-CA-36177

Court of Appeals of New Mexico.

Filing Date: October 1, 2019


Hector H. Balderas, Attorney General, Santa Fe, NM, Lauren J. Wolongevicz, Assistant Attorney General, Albuquerque, NM, for Appellee

Bennett J. Baur, Chief Public Defender, Aja Oishi, Assistant Appellate Defender, Santa Fe, NM, for Appellant

M. ZAMORA, Chief Judge.

{1} Defendant Joseph Grubb appeals his conviction for escape from jail, arguing that the district court committed fundamental error by instructing the jury using the Uniform Jury Instruction (UJI) that lists the essential elements for the crime of escape from an

455 P.3d 880

inmate-release program. Defendant also argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction and that pre-indictment delay violated his due process rights. Because the district court instructed the jury on a crime for which Defendant was never charged, the district court committed fundamental error. Because Defendant’s other arguments are without merit, we reverse for a new trial consistent with this opinion.

BACKGROUND

{2} While on probation for a conviction in 2008, Defendant was arrested and charged with drug-related crimes. As a result of those charges, the State sought to revoke Defendant’s probation, and after holding a hearing on the matter on December 22, 2011, the district court revoked Defendant’s probation, granting him furlough until December 31, 2011, when he was required to turn himself in to the custody of the Otero County Detention Center. Defendant did not report on December 31, 2011, and instead accumulated additional charges in two new cases under an alias, Deciderio Nieto. While he remained in jail on those other charges, Defendant was indicted on one count of escape from jail, and a jury convicted him. Defendant appeals his conviction for escape from jail.

DISCUSSION

{3} Defendant argues that the district court erred by improperly instructing the jury, that the evidence was insufficient as a matter of law to support a conviction for escape from jail under NMSA 1978, Section 30-22-8 (1963), that the district court improperly admitted testimony regarding other cases, and that the pre-indictment delay in this case violated his due process rights. We begin with Defendant’s arguments regarding jury instructions and sufficiency of the evidence. Those arguments being dispositive of the improper testimony argument, we need not address it. See State v. Mascareñas , 2000-NMSC-017, ¶ 1, 129 N.M. 230, 4 P.3d 1221 (declining to address appellant’s arguments regarding improperly admitted evidence after concluding deficiencies in the jury instructions warranted reversal). Last, we consider Defendant’s argument regarding pre-indictment delay.

I. Jury Instructions

A. Escape From Jail and Escape From an Inmate-Release Program

{4} Defendant argues that the district court committed fundamental error by instructing the jury using the UJI for escape from an inmate-release program rather than escape from jail. "Escape from jail consists of any person who shall have been lawfully committed to any jail, escaping or attempting to escape from such jail." Section 30-22-8. The UJI identifies the three essential elements present in Section 30-22-8 as follows:

1. The defendant was committed to jail;

2. The defendant either escaped from, or attempted to escape from[,] jail; and

3. This happened in New Mexico on or about [a specified date].

UJI 14-2221 NMRA. The UJI also provides, in a use note, that "[i]f the escape is from a jail release program, use UJI 14-2228 [ NMRA,]" which lists the six essential elements for escape from an inmate-release program. UJI 14-2221 use note 1.

{5} Escape from an inmate-release program is a crime established in NMSA 1978, Section 33-2-46 (1980): "Any prisoner whose limits of confinement have been extended, or who have been granted a visitation privilege under the inmate-release program, who willfully fails to return to the designated place of confinement within the time prescribed, with the intent not to return, is guilty of an escape." Under the UJI, escape from an inmate-release program consists of six elements:

[a.] The defendant was committed to _____________ (identify institution);

[b.] The defendant was released from _____________ (identify institution) to (describe purpose for release);

[c.] The defendant failed to return to confinement within the time fixed for the defendant’s return;

[d.] The defendant’s failure to return was willful, without sufficient justification or excuse;

[e.] The defendant intended not to return within the time fixed;
455 P.3d 881
[f.] This happened in New Mexico on or about the ___ day of ________, ___.

UJI 14-2228. The use notes to the UJI provide that "[the escape from an inmate-release program] instruction is also to be used for escape from jail." UJI 14-2228 use note 1.

B. Fundamental Error

{6} The State argued to the district court that because this case fell "between certain different kinds of escape," the jury instruction needed to "be modified to require certain things that maybe just escape from jail would not." The State therefore sought to instruct the jury using UJI 14-2228, escape from an inmate-release program, because it was "factually closest" to the circumstances of the case. The district court instructed the jury using a modified version of UJI 14-2228. The tendered instruction read as follows:

For you to find [D]efendant guilty of escape from jail, the state must prove to your satisfaction beyond a reasonable doubt each of the following elements of the crime:

1. [D]efendant was committed to the Otero County Detention Center for transport to the New Mexico Department of Corrections;

2. [D]efendant was released from lawful custody or confinement for furlough purposes;

3. [D]efendant failed to return to lawful custody or confinement within the time fixed for the defendant’s return;

4. [D]efendant’s failure to return was willful, without sufficient justification or excuse;

5. [D]efendant intended not to return within the time fixed;

6. This happened in New Mexico on or about the 31st day of December, 2011.

Defendant did not object to the district court giving this instruction, and therefore failed to preserve his argument that the district court erred in giving this instruction. See, e.g. , State v. Jimenez , 2017-NMCA-039, ¶ 54, 392 P.3d 668 ("Because [the d]efendant failed to object to the instructions given at trial, [the d]efendant failed to preserve this issue[.]").

{7} We review unpreserved assertions of error in a jury instruction for fundamental error. State v. Stevens , 2014-NMSC-011, ¶ 42, 323 P.3d 901. In a fundamental error analysis, we begin by considering whether reversible error exists, such that "the jury instructions, taken as a whole, cause juror confusion by failing to provide the jurors with an accurate rendition of the relevant law." State v. Suazo , 2017-NMSC-011, ¶ 15, 390 P.3d 674 (alterations, internal quotation marks, and citations omitted); see State v. Barber , 2004-NMSC-019, ¶ 19, 135 N.M. 621, 92 P.3d 633 (noting that fundamental error begins at the same place as our reversible error analysis by considering "whether a reasonable juror would have been confused or misdirected by the jury instruction"). If reversible error exists, we then review the entire record, "placing the jury instructions in the context of the individual facts and circumstances of the case, to determine whether ... Defendant’s conviction was the result of a plain miscarriage of justice." Id. (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

{8} It is the district court’s duty to instruct the jury upon all questions of law essential for a conviction of any crime with which the defendant is charged. Rule 5-608(A) NMRA ; see, e.g. , State v. Lopez , 1996-NMSC-036, ¶ 10, 122 N.M. 63, 920 P.2d 1017 ; Jackson v. State , 1983-NMSC-098, ¶ 6, 100 N.M. 487, 672 P.2d 660. The failure to instruct the jury on an essential element of the offense charged generally constitutes fundamental error requiring reversal. Jackson , 1983-NMSC-098, ¶ 6, 100 N.M. 487, 672 P.2d 660 (concluding incorrect instruction was fundamental error because it did not contain necessary elements of the crime); see also State v. Samora , 2016-NMSC-031, ¶ 29, 387 P.3d 230 ("Fundamental error occurs when jury instructions fail to inform the jurors that the State has the burden of proving an essential element of a crime and we are left with no way of knowing whether the jury found that element beyond a reasonable doubt." (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)).

{9} Another type of fundamental error is one that takes from the defendant a

455 P.3d 882

right that was "essential to his defense and [that] no court could or ought to permit him to waive." State v. Davis , 2009-NMCA-067, ¶ 13, 146 N.M. 550, 212 P.3d 438 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); see id. (reversing conviction where district court instructed jury on negligent and intentional child abuse, but the...

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6 cases
  • State v. Ocon
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • April 8, 2021
    ...a reasonable juror would have been confused or misdirected by the jury instruction." Id. ¶ 19 ; see State v. Grubb , 2020-NMCA-003, ¶ 7, 455 P.3d 877 ("In a fundamental error analysis, we begin by considering whether reversible error exists[.]"). 493 P.3d 454 Jury instructions cause confusi......
  • State v. Garcia
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • October 14, 2021
    ...by the jury instruction." State v. Barber , 2004-NMSC-019, ¶ 19, 135 N.M. 621, 92 P.3d 633 ; see State v. Grubb , 2020-NMCA-003, ¶ 7, 455 P.3d 877 ("In a fundamental error analysis, we begin by considering whether reversible error exists[.]"). Jury instructions cause confusion or misdirecti......
  • State v. Ocon
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • April 8, 2021
    ...a reasonable juror would have been confused or misdirected by the jury instruction." Id. ¶ 19; see State v. Grubb, 2020-NMCA-003, ¶ 7, 455 P.3d 877 ("In a fundamental error analysis, we begin by considering whether reversible error exists[.]"). Jury Page 7instructions cause confusion or mis......
  • State v. Garcia
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • October 14, 2021
    ...by the jury instruction." State v. Barber, 2004-NMSC-019, ¶ 19, 135 N.M. 621, 92 P.3d 633; see State v. Grubb, 2020-NMCA-003, ¶ 7, 455 P.3d 877 ("In a fundamental error analysis, we begin by considering whether reversible error exists[.]"). Jury instructions cause confusion or misdirection ......
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