FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF SAN JUAN COUNTY Karen L. Townsend,
H. Balderas, Attorney General Santa Fe, NM Walter Hart,
Assistant Attorney General Albuquerque, NM for Appellee
C. Mitchell, P.C. Gary C. Mitchell Ruidoso, NM for Appellant
J. WECHSLER, Judge
Defendant Chavez Charles Martin, Jr. appeals from his
conviction for second degree murder, contrary to NMSA 1978,
Section 30-2-1(B) (1994). Defendant's sole argument on
appeal is that the district court erred in refusing to
instruct the jury on his claim of self-defense. Because
reasonable minds could differ as to whether Defendant acted
in self-defense under the circumstances, we reverse
Defendant's conviction and remand for a new trial.
April 15, 2013 began uneventfully for all involved in this
case. Anthony Norberto (Victim), Darlena Upshaw, and
Defendant all spent the night at Victim's house and awoke
there in the morning. Defendant and Upshaw left the house,
driving first to a convenience store and then to the home of
Defendant's niece. They then returned to Victim's
house, where they remained for the next several hours.
Defendant drank alcohol throughout the day. Between 3:00 p.m.
and 4:00 p.m., Defendant, Victim, and Upshaw left
Victim's house and picked up several other individuals,
including Lucita Mason-Archuleta. Upshaw drove the vehicle, a
four-door Dodge pickup truck that belonged to Defendant. She
did not consume any alcohol so that she could blow into the
truck's interlock device. A hunting knife owned by
Defendant was in the seat-back pouch behind the front
At some point during the late afternoon, the group returned
to Victim's house. While there, they talked and watched
television. Victim started drinking around dusk and consumed
approximately "half a fifth" of liquor. He also
smoked both methamphetamine and marijuana with Upshaw during
The group again got into the truck and headed toward a nearby
apartment complex. Upshaw was driving, and Victim was sitting
in the front passenger seat. Defendant was sitting behind
Victim in the rear passenger seat. Victim began to discuss
childhood memories that involved his father physically
abusing his mother. Defendant commented on these memories in
a manner that angered Victim. Victim exited the truck and
demanded that Defendant get out and fight. Defendant refused,
and Victim reentered the truck.
After reentering the truck, Victim again became angry at
comments made by Defendant and repeatedly hit Defendant while
threatening to kill him. Victim then reached for the knife in
the seat-back pouch behind the front passenger seat. A
struggle for the knife ensued. Defendant gained control of
the knife and stabbed Victim multiple times. Victim had one
deep incision over the left side of his neck that extended to
his right lower back and two stab wounds: one to his left
chest and one to his right chest that penetrated his lung and
liver. After stabbing Victim, Defendant exited the truck,
discarded the knife, and fled the scene on foot. Victim died
from his wounds.
Officer Roque Velarde of the Farmington Police Department
(FPD) located Defendant at a local motel. He transported
Defendant to FPD headquarters, where Defendant participated
in a videotaped interview with FPD Detective Daven Badoni.
Defendant described the events of the evening and repeatedly
expressed his fear that Victim was going to hurt him. He
described Victim's reputation for violence and tendency
to carry a specific weapon. Defendant could not remember
stabbing Victim. Defendant also stated that he himself was
physically disabled as a result of a car accident.
At trial, the parties offered conflicting evidence as to the
events of the evening. Defendant did not testify, but the
jury viewed his videotaped interview with Detective Badoni.
The State offered expert witness testimony by Dr. Ian Paul, a
forensic pathologist, who agreed with Defendant that the
incision extending from Victim's neck was consistent with
Defendant's theory that Victim was "coming at"
Defendant when the wound was inflicted. Defendant offered
expert witness testimony by Teresa Vigil, a forensic
scientist, who testified that her fingerprint analysis of the
knife revealed a palm print on the blade that did not belong
to Defendant. Dr. Paul additionally testified that Victim had
a blood-alcohol content of 0.139 and both methamphetamine and
marijuana in his system.
Upshaw testified that Victim's temperament invoked fear
in others and that Victim had a criminal history for violent
acts. Both Upshaw and Victim's brother testified that
Victim would not let go of perceived slights. To the
contrary, Defendant's niece testified that Defendant was
a kind and peaceful person.
The district court refused Defendant's requested
self-defense instruction. The jury deliberated for
approximately two hours before finding Defendant ...