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State v. Ortiz

Court of Appeals of New Mexico

December 13, 2017

STATE OF NEW MEXICO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
CRYSTAL ORTIZ, Defendant-Appellant.


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

          Bennett J. Baur, Chief Public Defender Kathleen T. Baldridge, Assistant Appellate Defender Santa Fe, NM for Appellant


          STEPHEN G. FRENCH, Judge.

         {1} Defendant Crystal Ortiz appeals her convictions for great bodily harm by vehicle (driving while intoxicated (DWI)), contrary to NMSA 1978, Section 66-8-101(B), (C) (2004, amended 2016); aggravated battery (deadly weapon-vehicle), contrary to NMSA 1978, Section 30-3-5(C) (1969); and aggravated DWI, contrary to NMSA 1978, Section 66-8-102(A), (B) (2010, amended 2016). Defendant did not appeal her conviction for leaving the scene of an accident (great bodily harm). On appeal, Defendant argues that: (1) her convictions violate her right to be free from double jeopardy, and (2) the district court erred in refusing to grant her duress defense instructions. This case requires this Court to decide whether Defendant was entitled to a duress instruction on great bodily harm by vehicle, aggravated battery, and the strict liability crime of aggravated DWI. We hold that the duress instruction was applicable to the facts of the case and should have been given for aggravated battery (deadly weapon-vehicle) and great bodily harm by vehicle (DWI) based on Defendant's prima facie evidence. We affirm Defendant's conviction for the strict liability crime of aggravated DWI. Because we reverse Defendant's appealed convictions for aggravated battery (deadly weapon-vehicle) and great bodily harm by vehicle (DWI) based on instructional error, we do not address Defendant's double jeopardy claim.


         {2} Prior to trial, Defendant alerted the district court that she intended to present the affirmative defense of duress as she was forced to flee from Mr. Hughes (Victim) fearing great bodily harm. Again, after the defense rested, Defendant and the State discussed the duress defense with the district court. The district court denied Defendant's duress instructions the next day before closing arguments.

         {3} On appeal, Defendant challenges the district court's denial of the duress instruction for three of her convictions: great bodily harm by vehicle, aggravated battery, and aggravated DWI. Defendant argues that the district court erred in denying the duress instructions, claiming that she had presented a prima facie case for the giving of the duress instructions and that a reasonable view of the evidence supported her defense.


         {4} "The propriety of jury instructions given or denied is a mixed question of law and fact" and is "reviewed de novo." State v. Munoz, 1998-NMSC-041, ¶ 8, 126 N.M. 371, 970 P.2d 143 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). "When considering a defendant's requested instructions, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the giving of the requested instruction." State v. Wyatt B., 2015-NMCA-110, ¶ 33, 359 P.3d 165, citing State v. Romero, 2005-NMCA-060, ¶ 8, 137 N.M. 456, 112 P.3d 1113; see State v. Hill, 2001-NMCA-094, ¶ 5, 131 N.M. 195, 34 P.3d 139. Our Supreme Court has recognized that "[t]he duress defense is similar, in this context, to other justification defenses, " such as necessity, coercion, or self-defense. State v. Castrillo, 1991-NMSC-096, ¶ 6, 112 N.M. 766, 819 P.2d 1324.

         {5} "The defense of duress is a question for the jury." Esquibel v. State, 1978-NMSC-024, ¶ 9, 91 N.M. 498, 576 P.2d 1129, overruled on other grounds by State v. Wilson, 1994-NMSC-009, ¶ 6, 116 N.M. 793, 867 P.2d 1175. "To warrant submission to the jury of the defense of duress, a defendant must make a prima facie showing that [she] was in fear of immediate and great bodily harm to [herself] . . . and that a reasonable person in [her] position would have acted the same way under the circumstances." Castrillo, 1991-NMSC-096, ¶ 4 (emphasis added); see also State v. Rios, 1999-NMCA-069, ¶ 7, 127 N.M. 334, 980 P.2d 1068. New Mexico courts have "required the state to disprove such defenses beyond a reasonable doubt." State v. Lopez, 1990-NMCA-016, ¶ 9, 109 N.M. 578, 787 P.2d 1261."[T]he district court must instruct on the defense [of duress] only if it is raised by the defendant and only if, on the basis of the evidence at trial (whether offered by the state or by the defendant), a reasonable juror could have a reasonable doubt arising from the defense." Id. "The test is not how the judge would weigh the [duress] evidence as a fact[-]finder; the true test is whether any juror could be justified in having a reasonable doubt about whether the accused acted [under duress]." State v. Guerra, 2012-NMSC-014, ¶ 14, 278 P.3d 1031. "If any reasonable minds could differ, the instruction should be given." State v. Rudolfo, 2008-NMSC-036, ¶ 27, 144 N.M. 305, 187 P.3d 170.


         {6} Defendant argues that her trial testimony and evidence, when viewed in the light most favorable to the giving of the requested instruction, was sufficient to satisfy her burden in her prima facie case and create a reasonable doubt in the mind of a juror, and therefore the duress instruction should have been given. We begin by examining Defendant's testimony at trial.

         {7} Defendant testified that she had a relationship with Victim several years before the instant events. Victim had become a good friend of her father's. Victim became aggressive when he drank and ultimately, according to Defendant's testimony, he raped her three years earlier. Approximately three years later, she again became friendly with Victim. During this three year hiatus in their relationship, Defendant's father and Victim remained good friends. On the night in question, Defendant and Victim had been out drinking, along with Defendant's father, and eventually ended up at Victim's house. Defendant stated that she was intoxicated, and Victim drove her car to his house.

         {8} Once at Victim's house and without invitation, Victim stood over Defendant and tried to kiss her and touch her face. Defendant repeatedly told him to stop. Defendant did not slap or push Victim. Before Defendant attempted to flee from the house, the first time, Victim continued to physically touch Defendant and was "trying to pull [her] into him." Victim pulled a button off Defendant's clothing and ripped her shirt. When Defendant tried to leave Victim's house, Victim got angry and threw a pillow, knocking over a tower of CDs.

         {9} At this time, Defendant realized that Victim still had her car keys. Victim would not allow Defendant to call her father, grabbed Defendant's phone from her, and when Defendant tried to leave, Victim physically blocked the door. Once Defendant was able to regain control of her keys and phone, Defendant made it out the door and into her car. Defendant testified, "Well, my thought was to drive away first and then to call [my father]." Defendant had started her vehicle before Victim jumped in.

         {10} After Victim jumped into the vehicle, Defendant repeatedly ordered Victim out of the vehicle but he would not leave. As Defendant started to drive home, Victim was yelling and screaming at Defendant. At which point, Defendant again tried to call her father. When Victim grabbed the phone from Defendant, Victim also grabbed Defendant's hair, causing the car to jerk. As Victim grabbed Defendant's hair and the phone, Victim jumped out of the car and started to run around to the front of the car. It was then that the car jumped the curb and hit a fence. Defendant believed that Victim had jumped out of the car before Defendant's car hit the fence. During Defendant's ...

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