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State v. Martinez

State v. Martinez, 2021 UT App 11 (Pohlman, J. and Orme, J. majority opinion) (Christiansen Forster, J., concurring)

Criminal Law

Martinez appeals his jury convictions on one count of rape and three counts of sodomy on a child. He raises issues surrounding a deadlock instruction, admission of a CJC interview, and counsel’s failure to object to evidence that he had shown pornography to the child. The Utah Court of appeals affirmed his convictions, holding:

  • As a matter of statutory interpretation, under Utah Code § 78A-7-118(3), an appeal to the district court from a negotiated plea in justice court does not vacate or void the judgement of the justice court. Under the plain language of the statute, the judgment persists, but may be stayed pending the defendant’s appeal to district court. If the appeal is withdrawn prior to the district court entering a final judgment, the judgment entered by the justice court remains the final judgment in the case. Accordingly, the Court remanded with instructions to reinstate Ms. Kamoe’s original judgment.
  • Even though Martinez suffered from problems reconstructing the record on appeal surrounding the deadlock instruction, Martinez did not argue at trial that the instruction was coercive under the circumstances in the district court and has not argued that a preservation exception applies. The court does not consider his due process claim.
  • Martinez cannot show prejudice under either plain error or ineffective assistance of counsel. He cannot show a reasonable probability of a different verdict had the CJC interview been omitted under rule 15.5.
  • Martinez cannot show that the evidence regarding pornography tipped the scales in favor of the Victim’s version of events over his.
  • Concurring opinion: The district court has a duty to keep a complete record of the deadlock instruction proceedings. The district court erred in failing to record that in-chambers discussion. All proceedings must be recorded, including in-chambers conferences. This did a disservice to Martinez and hampered his ability to raise this issue.
  • Preservation practice points:
  1. A general objection to giving an instruction is not factually specific enough to preserve an argument on appeal that an instruction was “coercive under the circumstances.”
  2. An objection to a CJC interview on hearsay grounds does not preserve an objection under rule 15.5.
  3. Raising an issue that could have been raised at trial in a post-trial motion does not preserve an issue for appeal.

Read the full court opinion

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