State v. Orgain

Decision Date11 January 1993
Docket NumberNo. 13473,13473
PartiesSTATE of New Mexico, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Reva ORGAIN, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtCourt of Appeals of New Mexico


Defendant appeals her convictions for multiple counts of forgery and conspiracy to commit forgery. On appeal, she contends that (1) there is insufficient evidence to support the convictions for a variety of reasons; and (2) the number of convictions violates the prohibition against double jeopardy, again for a variety of reasons. We address only the reasons necessary to our disposition. Defendant raised two additional issues in the docketing statement, which have not been briefed and are therefore deemed abandoned. See State v. Fish, 102 N.M. 775, 777, 701 P.2d 374, 376 (Ct.App.), cert. denied, 102 N.M. 734, 700 P.2d 197 (1985). We reverse in part and affirm in part and remand to the district court with instructions to file a new judgment and sentence.


Defendant and Moises Alvarez were charged with sixteen counts of forgery and conspiracy to commit forgery, based on the passing of four stolen checks. Each of the checks resulted in four charges. For each check, defendant was accused of one count of forgery under a "making or altering" theory, NMSA 1978, Sec. 30-16-10(A) (Repl.Pamp.1984), one count of forgery under an "issuing or transferring" theory, NMSA 1978, Sec. 30-16-10(B) (Repl.Pamp.1984), one count of conspiracy to commit forgery by "making or altering," and one count of conspiracy to commit forgery by "issuing or transferring."

Defendant concedes that the four checks were stolen from their owner under circumstances from which the jury could infer that she was the thief. The parties stipulated that Elizabeth Cordova, who was defendant's friend and Alvarez's girlfriend, wrote out all the checks to Alvarez. Alvarez and defendant were caught as Alvarez was trying to pass the fourth check; defendant was in the car with him. The teller who cashed the third check described the people who passed that check in a manner that fit Alvarez and defendant. The first, third, and fourth checks were passed at the same branch of Sunwest Bank on December 11, 1989, December 26, 1989, and January 9, 1990; the second check was passed at a different branch of Sunwest Bank on December 20, 1989.

Cordova testified that Alvarez asked her to make out all of the checks, that she did so at the same time using different pens, and that she was to get a portion of the proceeds. Alvarez testified that he passed the first, third, and fourth checks after defendant brought him the checks already filled out; that the checks were in payment for moving furniture for different people; and that he and defendant shared the proceeds.

Although the checks were not designated as exhibits on appeal, see SCRA 1986, 12-212(A) (Repl.1992), we called for them on our own motion, see SCRA 1986, 12-212(C) (Repl.1992). The four checks all bear the endorsement of Moises Alvarez in handwriting that a jury could have found to be remarkably similar. A bank teller explained that part of the duties of tellers is to require identification when checks are presented to be cashed. Thus, the jury could have found that Alvarez passed all the checks, contrary to his testimony that he had nothing to do with the second check.

The jury, having been instructed on accomplice liability, convicted defendant on all eight conspiracy charges and on six of the forgery charges, those relating to the first, second, and fourth checks. We note that the judgment and sentence incorrectly states that defendant was found guilty of the forgery counts related to the third check but not guilty of the forgery counts related to the fourth check. The trial court shall correct this technical error when it enters a new judgment.

1. Double Jeopardy

Defendant raises two issues related to double jeopardy. First, she contends that she should not be convicted of two separate counts of forgery and two of conspiracy based on the same check, the only difference between the two counts being the theory of forgery charged. Second, she contends that there was only one conspiracy. We address the second contention in our discussion of the sufficiency of the evidence. We agree with defendant's first contention, as does the state.

The scope of the double jeopardy protection is a matter of legislative intent, and it is the legislature that defines the unit of prosecution. See Herron v. State, 111 N.M. 357, 359, 805 P.2d 624, 626 (1991). The different subsections of the forgery statute, which are stated in the alternative, provide for alternative means of prosecution. See State v. Ruffins, 109 N.M. 668, 670-71, 789 P.2d 616, 618-19 (1990). Accordingly, it appears to us that the legislature intended only one conviction for each forgery related to the same facts involving the same check.

Because of this, defendant should have been convicted only on one count of forgery and at most one count of conspiracy relating to each check. Thus, for the error described in this issue, three forgery convictions and four conspiracy convictions should be vacated, leaving three forgery convictions and four conspiracy convictions.

We disagree with defendant's contention that she should get a new trial because the state charged sixteen counts instead of eight. She relies on a quotation from Ball v. United States, 470 U.S. 856, 105 S.Ct. 1668, 84 L.Ed.2d 740 (1985), to the effect that multiple charges enhance the possibility of conviction. She argues that the state should not be allowed to bring "multiplicitous" charges without risk and, therefore, if we should find insufficient evidence of any charge or that certain charges merge we should award a new trial.

We disagree with defendant's contention for two reasons. First, it does not appear to us that defendant was unduly prejudiced. The jury did, after all, acquit defendant of two charges submitted to it. Cf. State v. Montano, 93 N.M. 436, 439-40, 601 P.2d 69, 72-73 (Ct.App.) (failure to sever counts not reversible error when defendant was unable to show prejudice because jury demonstrated that it could carefully apply the evidence to the charges by acquitting on some counts and convicting on others), cert. denied, 93 N.M. 683, 604 P.2d 821 (1979).

Second, defendant does not suggest a logical line to separate those cases which require new trials from those cases which do not. For example, is a new trial required whenever a trial court directs a verdict on a count? Is one required whenever the appellate court finds insufficient evidence on a count or that offenses should have been merged? The relief we award defendant is consistent with that awarded in past cases, reversal of the convictions upon which we find insufficient evidence or merger. See Herron, 111 N.M. at 363, 805 P.2d at 630.

2. Sufficiency of the Evidence

Defendant first contends that there is no evidence to support any of the convictions. We disagree.

We review the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict, resolving all conflicts therein and indulging all reasonable inferences therefrom in support of the judgment. See State v. Lankford, 92 N.M. 1, 2, 582 P.2d 378, 379 (1978). While defendant contends that the supreme court disavowed this standard in State v. Garcia, 114 N.M. 269, 837 P.2d 862 (1992), we believe that Garcia merely reiterated the established law that the standard must be viewed in the context of the state's burden below--to prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. See State v. Sutphin, 107 N.M. 126, 131, 753 P.2d 1314, 1319 (1988); State v. Carter, 93 N.M. 500, 503, 601 P.2d 733, 736 (Ct.App.) ("we must determine whether there is sufficient evidence to justify a rational trier of fact to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt with respect to every element essential to a conviction"), cert. denied, 93 N.M. 683, 604 P.2d 821 (1979). Thus, Garcia reminds us that our review involves a two-step process: deference to the resolution of factual conflicts and inferences derived therefrom, and a legal determination of whether the evidence viewed in this manner could support the conviction. See Garcia, 114 N.M. at 273-74, 837 P.2d at 866-67.

A. Forgery convictions for first and fourth checks

Defendant relies on State v. Hermosillo, 88 N.M. 424, 540 P.2d 1313 (Ct.App.1975), and contends that the evidence was insufficient because she was never seen handling the checks, the handwriting on them was Cordova's, and defendant was merely present in the car when the checks were passed. Hermosillo, however, does not control this case. In this case, the evidence is more compelling than it was in Hermosillo.

The evidence here was that defendant stole the checks and gave at least the first, third, and fourth checks to Alvarez. According to his testimony and that of the bank teller, defendant arranged for and accompanied Alvarez on the trips to the bank and agreed to share in the proceeds. We believe that this is sufficient to support the "community of purpose" necessary to convict her under an aiding and abetting theory for forgery of the first and fourth checks. See State v. Martinez, 85 N.M. 198, 200, 510 P.2d 916, 918 (Ct.App.1973). The jury could infer that defendant stole the checks, had Cordova fill them in, and agreed with Alvarez to split the proceeds if he would cash them. See SCRA 1986, 14-2823 (aiding and abetting may be shown by acts, conduct, words of defendant); see also State v. Gardner, 103 N.M. 320, 324, 706 P.2d 862, 866 (Ct.App.) (fraudulent intent may be shown by defendant's statements and conduct), cert. denied, 103 N.M. 287, 705 P.2d 1138 (1985). Finally, it was the exclusive province of the jury to resolve the factual inconsistency between Cordova's...

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