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State v. Martin

Court of Appeals of New Mexico

April 6, 2017

STATE OF NEW MEXICO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
CHAVEZ CHARLES MARTIN, JR., Defendant-Appellant.

         APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF SAN JUAN COUNTY Karen L. Townsend, District Judge

          Hector H. Balderas, Attorney General Santa Fe, NM Walter Hart, Assistant Attorney General Albuquerque, NM for Appellee

          Gary C. Mitchell, P.C. Gary C. Mitchell Ruidoso, NM for Appellant


          JAMES J. WECHSLER, Judge

         {1} 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.


         {2} 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 passenger seat.

         {3} 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 day.

         {4} 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.

         {5} 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.

         {6} 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.

         {7} 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.

         {8} 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.

         {9} The district court refused Defendant's requested self-defense instruction. The jury deliberated for approximately two hours before finding Defendant ...

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