The Appellate Group

State v. Garcia-Lorenzo

State v. Garcia-Lorenzo, 2022 UT App 101 (Harris, J.)


The State charged Defendant with two sex crimes, but it put on evidence of four physical acts that could potentially have amounted to criminal behavior. The jury convicted, and Defendant appealed, arguing that his counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to seek a jury instruction that specifically directed the jurors that they needed to unanimously agree upon which acts formed the basis for each criminal charge. The Utah Court of Appeals agreed and reversed, holding:

  • Because the State presented evidence of more potentially criminal acts than the two with which Defendant was charged, the jury needed to be instructed that it must unanimously agree on the specific criminal act underlying each count of conviction. Counsel rendered deficient performance in failing to ensure the jury was correctly instructed, and the closing arguments did not obviate the problem with the jury instructions. Defendant was prejudiced because there was a reasonable basis in the evidence for jurors to disagree on whether all the alleged criminal acts had occurred.
  • Of note: Although the court of appeals reversed on other grounds and therefore did not rule on this issue, the court took issue with the prosecutor implying that defense counsel asking leading questions on cross-examination was somehow inappropriate or constituted pressuring the witness. Asking leading questions on cross-examination is appropriate, even when the witness is a child.

Read the full court opinion