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State v. Sweat

Court of Appeals of New Mexico

June 28, 2017

STATE OF NEW MEXICO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
ALREE SWEAT, Defendant-Appellant.

         APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF DOÑA ANA COUNTY Douglas R. Driggers, District Judge

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

          Bennett J. Baur, Chief Public Defender Allison H. Jaramillo, Assistant Appellate Defender Santa Fe, NM for Appellant


          JAMES J. WECHSLER, Judge.

         {1} Defendant Alree Sweat appeals his convictions of four counts of burglary of a vehicle, contrary to NMSA 1978, Section 30-16-3(B) (1971). Defendant's primary arguments on appeal are that the district court erred by admitting (1) "grainy" surveillance video footage, and (2) lay witness testimony identifying Defendant as the person pictured on the surveillance video. Defendant also argues that sufficient evidence does not support his convictions and that he was deprived of his constitutional right to a speedy trial.

         {2} For the reasons discussed herein, we first hold that the surveillance video footage was relevant and not unfairly prejudicial to Defendant, making it admissible at trial. We additionally hold that the admission of lay witness testimony identifying Defendant as the person pictured on the surveillance video was not error under the circumstances of this case and that Defendant's sufficiency of the evidence and speedy trial arguments lack merit. We therefore affirm.


         {3} On the morning of May 5, 2013, Las Cruces Police Department (LCPD) Officer Sean Terry was dispatched to investigate a reported auto burglary at the Super 8 Motel. He was, however, rerouted by dispatch to the Mesilla Valley Hospital because the complainant had left the motel to go to work. He observed that the window of Theresa Graham's white Buick LeSabre (the LeSabre) was pried open and broken. Graham reported that additional evidence was located at the Super 8 Motel. Officer Terry proceeded to the Super 8 Motel, where he discovered a blue Toyota Sienna (the Sienna) with similar damage. Officer Terry photographed the damage to both vehicles. He also viewed surveillance video footage with the manager of the motel and requested a copy of the surveillance video footage from the relevant time period (the surveillance video).

         {4} On May 6, 2013, LCPD Detective Michael Rickards received an email message that contained still images captured from the surveillance video. Detective Rickards recognized Defendant as the person pictured. Detective Rickards then viewed the surveillance video and noted that the person pictured was driving a dark-colored pickup truck. With this information, Detective Rickards began an investigation to determine whether Defendant owned or drove such a vehicle. As Detective Rickards was driving to Defendant's last known address, he saw Defendant standing on the side of the road next to a disabled, dark-colored pickup truck. Detective Rickards obtained the registration information and determined that Defendant owned the vehicle.

         {5} Given this information, Detective Rickards implemented a surveillance operation targeting Defendant. Officers stationed themselves at Defendant's house and observed that location until approximately 1:00 a.m., [1] at which time Defendant left his house in a white Ford Mustang (the Mustang). Defendant drove through the city, ultimately parking at the Comfort Inn. New Mexico State Police Officer Daniel Lazos was assisting with the operation and positioned himself on the north side of the Comfort Inn. He saw Defendant in the northwest part of the parking lot banging on the door frame of a car. Officer Lazos then heard glass breaking, saw Defendant move to another vehicle, and heard more glass breaking. At this time, LCPD Officer Gary Pederson drove into the parking lot and parked his vehicle in close proximity to Defendant. Officer Pederson exited his vehicle and confronted Defendant, who dropped a backpack and fled on foot. Defendant ran directly toward Officer Lazos, but a rock wall separated the two. Defendant spoke to Officer Lazos as he ran by. While running away from Officer Lazos, Defendant passed directly in front of Detective Rickards' vehicle. Detective Rickards identified Defendant and yelled out for Defendant to stop running. The officers searched the area but did not find Defendant.

         {6} Crime Scene Photographer and Technician Anthony Martin photographed damage to two vehicles at the Comfort Inn: a silver Toyota Prius (the Prius) and a grey Ford F-250 (the F-250). The Mustang remained at the Comfort Inn.

         {7} After being apprehended, Defendant participated in a custodial interview with Detective Rickards, during which they discussed the current location of property missing from the vehicles at the Super 8 Motel. Defendant denied having possession of the property and stated that "I don't remember what I got [from the Super 8 Motel]" and that "Bobby did something with it[.]"

         {8} At trial, the State introduced the surveillance video through the testimony of Super 8 Motel manager Dipesh Gandhi. Gandhi testified that the surveillance video showed activity in the Super 8 Motel parking lot, including the "breaking of the vehicles" at issue in the case. Defendant objected to the admission of the surveillance video, claiming that, because it was "black-and-white" and "grainy, " the prejudicial effect outweighed the probative value. The district court overruled the objection.

         {9} Numerous law enforcement officers testified about their specific involvement in the investigation or the surveillance operation targeting Defendant. During Detective Rickards' testimony, the State played the surveillance video for the jury, including segments that showed (1) a dark-colored pickup truck pulling into and parking in the Super 8 Motel parking lot; (2) a person peering into the passenger side window of a white vehicle with a flashlight; and (3) a person forcibly entering the LeSabre and the Sienna. As the jury viewed the second segment, the following exchange took place:

[The State:] I'm going to draw your attention to [the portion of the surveillance video] starting with 2:20 [a.m.]. . . . Can you tell from that angle, or did you know who this [person pictured] was?
[Detective Rickards:] Not at this particular moment, no.
[The State:] Okay. Is this part of the video that you watched?
[Detective Rickards:] Yes, it is.
[The State:] When did you start to realize who you thought it was?
[Detective Rickards:] As soon as he came from the passenger side window to this position, I knew immediately it was [Defendant].

         Detective Rickards' testimony on this topic continued as follows:

[The State:] Do you know [Defendant]?
[Detective Rickards:] I do.
[The State:] Does he know you?
[Detective Rickards:] Yes, he does.
[The State:] Does he know you by name?
[Detective Rickards:] Yes, sir, he ...

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