U.S. v. Martin

Decision Date09 June 2008
Docket NumberNo. 07-2090.,07-2090.
Citation528 F.3d 746
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Melvin MARTIN, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Tenth Circuit

Ann Steinmetz, Albuquerque, NM, for Defendant-Appellant.

David N. Williams, Assistant United States Attorney (Larry Gómez, United States Attorney, with him on the briefs), Albuquerque, NM, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Before LUCERO, HOLLOWAY and McCONNELL, Circuit Judges.

McCONNELL, Circuit Judge.

In March, 2007, a federal jury convicted Melvin Martin of two counts of rape and two counts of assault for brutally attacking his girlfriend in their shared home on the Navajo reservation. Before trial the defendant attempted to plead guilty to the assault charges—but not the rape charges—and the judge refused to accept his partial plea. At trial, Mr. Martin requested a jury instruction about the victim's possible consent to the sex, which the judge refused to give. After trial, the judge sentenced Mr. Martin to 30 years in prison. The defendant appeals, challenging these three decisions. We conclude that there was no error, and affirm his conviction and sentence.


The following facts emerged at trial, and are not challenged on appeal: Through the internet, Melvin Martin met the victim, whom we will call Jane Doe. She had left her home in Indiana and came to Crown Point, New Mexico, on the Navajo reservation, to live with him. The couple had two children together, and lived in what the victim described as a common-law marriage. Mr. Martin attended classes at the Crownpoint Institute of Technology while Ms. Doe cared for the children; they survived on food stamps and other government assistance.

On May 8, 20051Mother's Day — Mr. Martin and three friends sat drinking in the living room of the house while Ms. Doe took care of the children in a bedroom. At one point, Ms. Doe emerged into the main room of the house to get a bottle of baby formula and warm it momentarily in the microwave. This apparently angered Mr. Martin, and after his friends left, he accused Ms. Doe of feigning her need for the baby formula in order to flirt with his friends. When she denied the accusation, he savagely attacked her.

He began by beating her with his fists, kicking her, and throwing her into the bathroom. There, he bashed her head against the sink faucet and started to strangle her. He anally raped her, ignoring her pleas to stop. During a brief respite from the assault and rape, Mr. Martin asked her repeatedly which of his friends she wanted to have sex with. Ms Doe denied that she was interested in any of his friends, and he accused her of lying. Finally, she named one of the three men who had been in the living room earlier.

This further enraged Mr. Martin, who said, "[w]ell, that's it, I'm going to cut out your G spot so you won't be able to feel love anymore," and retrieved a knife from the closet. R. Vol. 6, at 174. He repeatedly stabbed Ms. Doe in the vagina and throughout her lower body. She also received cuts to her hand when she tried to defend herself. Mr. Martin then allowed her to wash her wounds in the bathroom. When she came out, he cut off her hair with the knife and demanded that she perform oral sex on him. Frightened, Ms. Doe complied. She later testified, "I was scared. I had already been beaten, bloody and stabbed, so I just did it to save my face." R. Vol. 6 at 176. Blood was spattered on the walls and ceiling. Afraid to get blood on the bed, she fell asleep on the floor.

Ms. Doe did not immediately report the incident to the police. But her wounds became infected and she had trouble walking, so Mr. Martin took her to the emergency room in Crown Point. Because of her dire condition, she was flown to Albuquerque, where her injuries confined her to the hospital for five months. There, she eventually related the incident to an FBI agent. The injuries to her bladder, uterus, intestine, and other internal organs required nine or ten surgeries, including a hysterectomy. A physician that treated her testified that "the only reason that [she] survived this event was ... her youth and ... her underlying good health. A lot of people probably would not have survived a similar assault." R. Vol. 6, at 277.

Mr. Martin was then indicted by a federal grand jury. A superseding indictment laid out four charges: two counts of aggravated sexual abuse in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2241(a) (for the anal and oral sex), and one count each of assault under 18 U.S.C. § 113(a)(3) (for the stabbing) and § 113(a)(6) (for the beating). These are federal criminal statutes that apply to crimes in "the Indian country." 18 U.S.C. § 1153. The advisory Guidelines sentence for the sexual abuse charges is much higher than for the assault charges, and Mr. Martin asked to plead guilty to the assault without pleading guilty to the sexual abuse. While he admitted that he beat and stabbed Ms. Doe, he claimed that their sexual relations had always been consensual, even after he attacked her. The judge refused to accept the partial plea, and Mr. Martin chose to go to trial on all four charges.

At trial, the government presented testimony from the victim, from a doctor who had treated her in Albuquerque, and from an evidence technician with the Navajo Department of Criminal Investigations. Mr. Martin did not testify and presented no evidence on his own behalf. He did ask that the jury receive an instruction about possible consent to the anal and oral sex, which the district judge refused to give. The jury found him guilty of all four counts. When the defendant addressed the court at sentencing, he insisted that he "never had to rape no women ... in my life, ever. ... I never had to force myself upon a woman to have sex." R. Vol. 9, at 28. The judge calculated the defendant's sentence under the advisory sentencing guidelines: 292-365 months. The judge then imposed a sentence within the guidelines range—two 360-month sentences for the rapes and two 120-month sentences for the assaults, all running concurrently. Mr. Martin now appeals, arguing that he should have been permitted to plead guilty, should have received his consent instruction, and that the judge miscalculated his advisory guidelines range. We consider each issue in turn and affirm.


Mr. Martin told the district court that he wanted to plead guilty to the assaults, but still proceed to trial on the rapes. The court held two hearings to consider the issue, and refused to accept the partial plea because it wanted to avoid making complicated evidentiary rulings and potentially confusing the jury by letting the defendant stipulate to half the government's case. On appeal, Mr. Martin argues that this violated his constitutional right to plead guilty. We have doubts that the district court's desire to avoid confusing the jury or complicating the evidentiary issues was a sufficient basis for rejecting the partial plea. See In re Vasquez-Ramirez, 443 F.3d 692, 695-96 (9th Cir. 2006) ("[V]iewing Rules 11(a) and (b) together, it is clear that a court must accept an unconditional guilty plea, so long as the Rule 11(b) requirements are met."). But we conclude that the decision can be affirmed on another ground: the lack of a factual basis for Mr. Martin's plea.

The defendant acknowledges that his constitutional right to plead guilty, to whatever extent it exists, applies only "if all foundational requirements are met." Aplt's Br. 18. One such requirement is that the defendant must admit the "factual basis" of the charged crime. Fed. R.Crim.P. 11(b)(3). There is no constitutional right to have a plea accepted without admitting the factual basis for it. See Santobello v. New York, 404 U.S. 257, 261-62, 92 S.Ct. 495, 30 L.Ed.2d 427 (1971); North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25, 38 n. 11, 91 S.Ct. 160, 27 L.Ed.2d 162 (1970); United States v. Young, 45 F.3d 1405, 1414 (10th Cir.1995); United States v. Brown, 331 F.3d 591, 594 (8th Cir.2003); United States v. Gomez-Gomez, 822 F.2d 1008, 1010-11 (11th Cir.1987). The government argues, and we agree, that Mr. Martin did not admit the facts necessary to convict him of both assaults.

To plead guilty to the assault with the knife, Mr. Martin had to admit that he committed "assault with a dangerous weapon, with intent to do bodily harm, and without just cause or excuse." 18 U.S.C. § 113(a)(3). He did not do so. During his first motion hearing, Mr. Martin testified on direct examination that he believed he was guilty of the assaults "[b]ecause I did stab the victim and she was hurt, and I did beat her." R. Vol. 4, at 53. Alone, this statement does not confess to the specific intent required by § 113(a)(3). See United States v. Two Eagle, 318 F.3d 785, 791 (8th Cir.2003). On cross-examination the prosecution gave Mr. Martin another chance to admit the necessary intent, asking the defendant, "[w]hat was your intent when you were stabbing her in the vagina?" R. Vol. 4, at 55. Defense counsel objected to this question, and the district court at first sustained the objection until the prosecutor pointed out that this charge "requires that the defendant admit with intent to do bodily harm, [sic] and the last question I was asking him what his intent was." R. Vol. 4, at 56. Acknowledging this, the court allowed the question. The following exchange ensued:

[Government]: Mr. Martin, what was your intent when you inserted that knife into Jane Doe's vagina?

[Defendant]: Well, what do you mean by the word intent? Could you define that word for me.

[Government]: No. What did you say right before you inserted that knife into her vagina? Do you remember saying, "I'm going to cut out your G spot so you can't feel anything anymore"?

[Defendant]: No, I don't recall.

[Government]: Were you drinking that night?

[Defendant]: Yes, I was.

[Government]: Your honor, under the circumstances, the defendant . . . does not seem to admit to specific intent. I would ask the Court on...

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