State v. Pamphille

Citation482 P.3d 1241
Decision Date27 August 2020
Docket NumberNo. A-1-CA-37226,A-1-CA-37226
Parties STATE of New Mexico, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Anthony PAMPHILLE, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtCourt of Appeals of New Mexico

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

Stalter Law LLC, Kenneth H. Stalter, Albuquerque, NM, for Appellant

MEDINA, Judge.

{1} Defendant Anthony Pamphille appeals from his convictions for arson, contrary to NMSA 1978, Section 30-17-5(A) (2006), breaking and entering, contrary to NMSA 1978, Section 30-14-8 (1981), and violating an order of protection, contrary to NMSA 1978, Section 40-13-6 (2013). We affirm.

BACKGROUND

{2} J.M. (Victim) had an "on-again-off-again" relationship with Defendant, the father of one of her children. In early March 2017, Victim decided to separate from Defendant and told him he was no longer welcome in her home. Despite this, Defendant kept returning to Victim's house. Defendant had a set of keys to Victim's house, and Victim suspected he was using those keys to enter the house and take her belongings. As a result, Victim had her landlord change the locks, although she was concerned this could anger Defendant.

{3} One night in early March—after Victim's landlord changed the locks—Victim opened her eyes and discovered Defendant kneeling down at the foot of her bed. Victim asked Defendant what he was doing in her home and told him he needed to leave. Defendant complied, but Victim soon realized that Defendant took her cellphone when he left. Victim believed that Defendant took her cellphone to read her text messages because he had a "jealous streak" and thought she was talking to another man. Victim believed Defendant had snuck in through a window in her daughter's bedroom because Victim had locked her doors before going to sleep and later discovered the window open. She reported the incident to her landlord, who screwed her daughter's window shut. This was not the first time someone broke into Victim's house. Prior to that incident, someone broke Victim's bedroom window on one occasion and her daughter's bedroom window on another.

{4} Victim had additional run-ins with Defendant and an unwelcome entry into her home during the month of March. On March 12, 2017, Victim called the police after Defendant showed up unannounced at her house. Two days earlier Victim obtained a temporary order of protection from Defendant prohibiting him from coming within one hundred yards of Victim's house. On the evening of March 17, 2017, Victim discovered a pot full of an unknown liquid on her stove. The liquid smelled like gas, and Victim suspected it was tiki torch oil that she kept under her kitchen sink. All the doors were locked at the time, although Victim's daughter's bedroom window had not yet been secured. Victim did not know who put the pot on the stove.

{5} On March 18, 2017, Victim again had to call the police after Defendant appeared and knocked on the front door of the house while Victim was present. Following a hearing on March 22, 2017, at which Defendant was present, Victim obtained a permanent order of protection against Defendant prohibiting him from coming within one hundred yards of her house.

{6} The morning of March 25, 2017, Victim had her landlord's brother come to the house to secure the windows in her and her daughter's bedrooms by screwing the windows shut, because while fixing the window in her bedroom that had been broken a couple of weeks prior, the landlord noticed that the windows were not secure. That same night, police and firefighters responded to reports of a fire at Victim's house. After putting out the fire—which caused over $100,000 worth of damage—investigators discovered one of Victim's windows had been shattered, and found a pair of pliers and pruning shears below the broken window, which appeared to have dried blood on them. The blood was later tested and confirmed to be Defendant's. Victim did not notice any broken glass or tools below her window when she watched the window being secured earlier that day, nor did she recognize the pliers and pruning shears.

{7} Investigators concluded that someone intentionally set the house on fire because the fire had multiple points of origin—including a kitchen fire caused by aerosol cans being placed in Victim's oven—and there was no evidence indicating accidental causes. The investigators also suspected that the arsonist entered the house through the shattered window, as both the front and back doors had to be forced open when responding to the fire.

{8} While nobody witnessed the arson, Victim's neighbor dropped off a fellow neighbor, Michael Vaughn, at his house the evening of March 25, 2017, shortly before the fire started. When Victim's neighbor dropped off Mr. Vaughn, she noticed an African-American man come from the general direction of Victim's house and heard him ask Mr. Vaughn for a cigarette. The neighbor then observed the man go back across the street toward Victim's house, although the neighbor did not see exactly where he went. Shortly thereafter, the neighbor heard the sound of glass breaking and sirens sometime later. While the neighbor did not know the man, she had seen him walking in the neighborhood on prior occasions.

Detective Medina's Testimony

{9} Defendant was charged with arson, breaking and entering, and violating an order of protection based on the events that occurred on March 25, 2017, and the case proceeded to a jury trial. On the second day of Defendant's trial, the State indicated that it intended to elicit testimony from Detective Medina about two phone calls Defendant made from jail, which had been recorded and transcribed.1 The State specified that it only intended to have Detective Medina read one portion of his report that related to what Defendant said during the calls, and that it objected to the remainder of the transcribed phone calls coming in as "self-serving" hearsay. Defendant objected to this, arguing, "If [Defendant] says ‘I don't know blah blah blah’ in one moment and then says ‘well it wasn't me, it wasn't me,’ I think that should be admissible under the rule of completeness." Defendant later explained that he only wanted to have the ability to ask Detective Medina on cross-examination: "Isn't it true that on the line before [Defendant] said, ‘I didn't start that fire?’ "

{10} After reading the relevant portion of the transcribed phone calls, the district court stated that it understood Defendant to be admitting that he had broken in through Victim's window in the past but denying that he broke in on the date of the arson. Although the court agreed that Defendant's statement would be hearsay (if not offered against him), the court believed it was necessary to provide context to Defendant's statements that the State intended to introduce. However, after Defendant clarified that he wanted to read multiple portions of the transcript in which Defendant denied starting the fire, the court ruled that Defendant could ask Detective Medina the question "Didn't [Defendant] deny committing the arson?" instead of the proposed "piecemeal reading of different sections of lines on different pages."

{11} In addition to Defendant's objection under the rule of completeness, Defendant also briefly mentioned the best evidence rule and pointed out that there was a recording of the calls that they could play for the jury. However, the court did not address the issue after the parties focused their arguments on the rule of completeness and did not again raise the best evidence rule.

{12} At trial, Detective Medina testified that he listened to two recorded phone calls Defendant made from jail. Detective Medina stated that he incorporated portions of Defendant's statements during the calls into his police report and proceeded to read the following from his report regarding the first phone call:

[Defendant] stated he had gained access through the window of [Victim's residence], and he was not sure if anybody had seen him gain entry. [Defendant] advised [Victim's residence] had caught on fire, and he stated the house didn't actually burn down. Then he stated that was what he heard from someone else.

Detective Medina then continued to read the following from his report regarding the second phone call:

During the phone call, [Defendant] stated the last time he was by the house was on March 18, 2017. [Defendant] also stated this was the same day [Victim] accused him of being over there knocking and kicking at the front door. [Defendant] stated he was at Mr. Vaughn's house and not at her house. [Defendant] stated [Victim] may have seen him, but if she did, he was over at Mr. Vaughn's. [Defendant] stated he was more than twenty-five feet away from [Victim's] residence.

During cross examination, the following colloquy took place:

Q. In the excerpt you read, [Defendant] specifically said the word "was," ... using the past [tense] word [for] going through the window?
A. Correct.
Q. [Defendant] didn't say "I was there on March 25?" ... "Was" could refer to days prior to March 25, could it not?
A. It could.
Q. It could refer to March 10, correct?
A. It could.
Q. It could refer to March 18, correct?
A. Sure.
....
Q. [Defendant] never stated he was in the house on March 25, correct?
A. Yes.
....
Q. Did [Defendant] specifically deny doing the arson?
A. Yes.

{13} At the conclusion of the trial, the jury convicted Defendant of arson, breaking and entering, and violating an order of protection. Defendant now appeals.

DISCUSSION

{14} On appeal, Defendant advances several arguments. First, Defendant challenges the district court's evidentiary ruling allowing Detective Medina to read from his police report, which included a transcription he made of portions of recorded phone calls Defendant made from jail. Second, Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence underlying his convictions—specifically arguing there was insufficient evidence to prove his...

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1 cases
  • State v. Brewer
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • June 28, 2021
    ..."[c]ircumstantial evidence, alone, may be sufficient to support [a] jury's verdict." See State v. Pamphille, 2021-NMCA-002, ¶ 28, 482 P.3d 1241, cert. denied, 2020-NMCERT-___ (No. S-1-SC-38498, Oct. 9, 2020). Defendant has not otherwise asserted any facts, law, or argument concerning this i......

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