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State v. Martinez

Court of Appeals of New Mexico

October 29, 2019

STATE OF NEW MEXICO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
ARTHUR MARTINEZ, Defendant-Appellant.


          Hector H. Balderas, Attorney General Santa Fe, NM Lauren J. Wolongevicz, Assistant Attorney General Albuquerque, NM for Appellee

          Bennett J. Baur, Chief Public Defender Santa Fe, NM Steven J. Forsberg, Assistant Appellate Defender Albuquerque, NM for Appellant


          BOGARDUS, Judge.

         {¶1} Defendant Arthur Martinez appeals from the district court's order denying his motion to dismiss. The central issue on appeal is whether Defendant's two convictions entered by the magistrate court should stand, given a conflict between- on the one side, the jury foreperson's announcement of guilt on both counts, the result of the jury poll generally affirming the jury foreperson's announcement, and signed "guilty" verdict forms-and on the other side, signed "not guilty" verdict forms. Concluding that the inconsistency in the verdict forms was the product of a clerical error that the magistrate properly corrected and that Defendant was not exposed to double jeopardy, as argued, we affirm.


         {¶2} Defendant was charged with two misdemeanor crimes: driving with a suspended license and driving without insurance. This appeal stems from an irregularity in Defendant's trial, which was conducted in magistrate court.

         {¶3} Because the magistrate court is not of record, knowledge of what happened at Defendant's trial is limited; nevertheless, both parties submit the following. After the jury deliberated, the jury foreperson announced that the jury found Defendant guilty on both counts. During the jury poll that followed the announcement, each juror assented to the verdict. Of note, however, the court did not poll the jurors specifically as to each count. The court then discharged the jury. After the jury left, the magistrate court noticed that the foreperson had signed both the "guilty" verdict form and the "not guilty" verdict form associated with each count. The court responded to the inconsistency by setting a hearing on the issue.

         {¶4} The record provides additional information about what happened next. The magistrate court filed the "guilty" verdict forms with the clerk on the day of trial. The "not guilty" verdict forms were made part of the record with a note attached to each with the words "Foreperson signed in error." It is not clear who wrote or attached the notes, nor when they were attached. Meanwhile, also on the day of trial, the court prepared a notice to send to the jury foreperson requiring his attendance at the hearing. The notice stated that the requirement to attend was "due to a clerical error with the [v]erdict paperwork at the trial[.]" At the conclusion of that hearing, which likewise was not recorded, the magistrate court (1) found that the jury verdict was valid as announced; and (2) entered a judgment of guilt as to each count.

         {¶5} Defendant then appealed the judgment to the district court and moved to dismiss the charges, alleging that his right to be free from double jeopardy was violated "by the . . . [m]agistrate [c]ourt's decision to allow the verdict to stand." Following a hearing on the matter, the district court entered an order denying Defendant's motion; included in the order were factual findings. Defendant next entered into a conditional plea allowing him to seek relief from his convictions. Defendant now appeals the district court's order.


         {¶6} We first establish the standard we use to review the district court's order. We review de novo the conclusions of law underlying the denial of Defendant's motion to dismiss. See State v. Baca, 2015-NMSC-021, ¶ 25, 352 P.3d 1151. To the extent that those conclusions are based on the court's findings stated in the order, we review the findings under a deferential substantial evidence standard. See id. Under that standard, "we will not weigh the evidence or substitute our judgment for that of the [district]court, and all reasonable inferences supporting the fact findings will be accepted even if some evidence may have supported a contrary finding." State v. Rodriguez, 2006-NMSC-018, ¶ 3, 139 N.M. 450, 134 P.3d 737 (citation omitted).

         {¶7} The question before us is whether the district court erred in concluding that, based on what happened in magistrate court, the entry of Defendant's convictions was proper. Defendant's claims to the district court and now on appeal all arise from the fact that the "not guilty" verdict forms were signed. Defendant treats the signed forms as an acquittal and, in so doing, contends both that the magistrate court subjected him to double jeopardy by recording the guilty verdict and also that any retrial of the charges against him would constitute double jeopardy. In contrast, the State treats the signatures on the "not guilty" verdict forms as clerical error that the magistrate court was allowed to, and did, correct.

         {¶8} We share the State's view that the signing of the "not guilty" verdict forms was clerical error that the magistrate court could correct, and we disagree with Defendant that the signed "guilty" verdict forms were ...

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