FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF DONA ANA COUNTY Fernando R.
Macias, District Judge
H. Balderas, Attorney General Santa Fe, NM Walter M. Hart,
III, Assistant Attorney General Albuquerque, NM for Appellee
E. Tangora, L.L.C. Robert E. Tangora Santa Fe, NM for
MILES HANISEE, Judge
jury convicted Defendant Leonard Telles of second degree
murder, kidnapping, attempted tampering with evidence, and
two counts of tampering with evidence. On appeal, Defendant
argues that (1) his right to a public trial was violated; (2)
his convictions for kidnapping, attempted tampering with
evidence, and tampering with evidence are not supported by
sufficient evidence; and (3) his convictions for kidnapping
and attempted tampering with evidence violate double
jeopardy. Defendant also seeks reversal of his convictions
based upon cumulative error. Unpersuaded, we affirm.
Defendant beat Jerome Saiz (Victim) to death with a baseball
bat. At trial, Defendant testified that he was at
Victim's house, assisting Rebecca Gomez, Victim's
ex-girlfriend, with packing so she could move out. At some
point after Defendant and Ms. Gomez finished packing, Ms.
Gomez's two young daughters alerted them that Victim had
arrived. Defendant went into the living room where Victim and
Ms. Gomez were arguing. Defendant testified that Victim was
holding a baseball bat, seemed "high," and
threatened Defendant. Defendant said that Victim
"rushed" him, but that he fought Victim off and was
able to take the bat away from Victim while Victim was making
a phone call. Defendant testified that he warned Victim to
stay away, but Victim came at him again, so he used the bat
to defend himself.
After the altercation, and seeing Victim lying on the ground
unresponsive, Defendant believed Victim to be dead. Defendant
told Ms. Gomez that they needed to leave Victim's house.
Defendant covered Victim with a blanket and stashed the bat
behind the washing machine. He then dragged Victim to a back
bedroom, rolled him up in a carpet, and shut the door.
Defendant next mopped the blood from the living room floor.
He testified that he took these actions, not to prevent the
police from finding Victim's body or to conceal evidence,
but to prevent Ms. Gomez's two daughters from seeing the
body or the blood and getting upset. (4} Defendant testified
that he believed Victim was dead when he dragged him to the
back bedroom, but that when he heard police knocking at the
door, he "panicked" and began pacing throughout the
house. He went to check on Victim, heard Victim making loud
snoring noises, and decided to inform the officers that
Victim was "knock[ed] . . . out." Defendant also
told the officers two things that he admitted at trial were
false: first, that Victim had broken into the home-which
Defendant misrepresented to the officers as belonging to Ms.
Gomez-in the middle of the night; and second, that upon
entry, Victim had attacked Ms. Gomez. (5} At trial, the State
took the position that Defendant had not acted in
self-defense, but instead had killed Victim willfully and
deliberately by repeatedly striking him with the baseball
bat. It was also the State's theory that Defendant
kidnapped Victim by rolling him up in the carpet so that if
Victim regained consciousness, he would not be able to move
or call for help. The State argued that Defendant's
efforts to mop up the blood in the living room and stash the
bat behind the washing machine supported two counts of
tampering with evidence. The State additionally argued that,
by moving Victim to the back bedroom and rolling him up in a
carpet, Defendant was trying to hide evidence of his crimes
from the police, thereby attempting to tamper with
jury convicted Defendant on all counts,  and Defendant was
sentenced to fifteen years' incarceration for second
degree murder with two years of parole; eighteen years'
incarceration for kidnapping followed by two years of parole;
eighteen months' incarceration for attempted tampering
with evidence followed by one year of parole; and three
years' incarceration followed by two years of parole for
each of the tampering with evidence convictions. The district
court ordered Defendant to serve the sentences for murder,
kidnapping, attempted tampering, and one of the tampering
charges consecutively, but ordered the second tampering with
evidence charge to be served concurrent with the sentence for
second degree murder. We provide additional facts as needed
to address Defendant's claims on appeal.
Defendant's Right to a Public Trial Was Not
Upon completion of a three-day jury trial, defense counsel
learned that the courtroom had been closed to several members
of the public, including, it appears, three members of
Defendant's family, for a ten to fifteen minute period
during closing arguments. The closure occurred, unbeknownst
to the district court and the parties, when a court security
officer barred entry to the would-be spectators in response
to a "Do Not Enter" sign that, for reasons unknown
had been affixed to the courtroom door. Defendant filed a
post-verdict motion for a new trial, arguing that the closure
was of constitutional dimension, and the district court held
a hearing to determine the causes and circumstances of the
temporary courtroom closure. The upshot of the hearing was
two-fold: the district court neither ordered nor was aware of
the closure, and no one could say with certainty who posted
the closure sign or why. The hearing testimony showed that
the bailiff, upon learning of the situation as it unfolded,
immediately directed that all members of the public be
permitted entry. Despite the exclusion of a few, the
courtroom was otherwise full of spectators, including members
of the media, who had entered before the brief and
inadvertent closure. The district court denied
Defendant's motion, emphasizing the limited nature-both
in time and scope-of the courtroom closure.
Defendant argues that the period of minutes during which the
courtroom was closed violated his right to a public trial
under the Federal and New Mexico Constitutions. We review de
novo whether a defendant's constitutional rights have
been violated. State v. Turrietta, 2013-NMSC-036,
¶ 14, 308 P.3d 964.
Federal Constitution provides that "[i]n all criminal
prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy
and public trial[.]" U.S. Const, amend. VI. The New
Mexico Constitution similarly provides that an accused shall
have "a speedy public trial by an impartial jury of the
county or district in which the offense is alleged to have
been committed." N.M. Const, art. II, § 14. The
values protected by the Sixth Amendment right to a public
trial are to ensure a fair trial, remind the prosecutor and
judge of their responsibility to the accused and the
importance of their functions, encourage witnesses to come
forward, and discourage perjury. See Waller v.
Georgia, 467 U.S. 39, 46 (1984). "The right to a
public trial is not absolute and may give way in certain
cases to other rights or interests, such as the
defendant's right to a fair trial or the government's
interest in inhibiting disclosure of sensitive
information." Turrietta, 2013-NMSC-036, ¶
15 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). "A
total courtroom closure is allowed when there is 'an
overriding interest based on findings that closure is
essential to preserve higher values and is narrowly tailored
to serve that interest.'" Id. ¶ 17
(quoting Waller, 467 U.S. at 45). To determine
whether there is an "overriding interest"
sufficient to justify a courtroom closure, the district court
must adhere to the following standard: " the party
seeking to close the hearing must advance an overriding
interest that is likely to be prejudiced,  the closure
must be no broader than necessary to protect that interest,
 the district court must consider reasonable alternatives
to closing the proceeding, and  it must make findings
adequate to support the closure." Id.
(alterations in original) (quoting Waller, 467 U.S.
Defendant contends that because the courtroom closure at
issue did not meet the "overriding interest"
standard, it was unconstitutional. See id. But
Defendant's application of Turrietta to the
facts at hand is misplaced. In that case our Supreme Court
applied the "overriding interest" standard in the
specific context of a courtroom closure sought by the State
and ordered over a defense objection. See id.
¶¶ 5-6. In this case, the district court had no
knowledge of, much less any role in, the closure, and there
was no defense objection to the closure, which came and went
without notice by the district court or the parties.
New Mexico jurisprudence has yet to address this precise
situation. The State urges us to follow federal case law,
which has consistently declined to find a violation of a
defendant's constitutional right to a public trial where,
as is the case here, the closure is fairly characterized as
"trivial." We ...