X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Appellant Daniel D. Garcia was convicted of murdering his wife and sentenced to 99 years in prison. The appellant’s marriage with Lesa Garcia had been troubled for several years. The couple had separated twice, and the victim had filed for divorce. The first separation occurred after an incident of “car dumping.” The appellant had pulled over his car and pushed his wife out, leaving her without her purse or cell phone. The appellant reconciled and began seeing a counselor. The counselor testified at appellant’s trial that the appellant admitted to getting physical with Lesa. The counselor suggested that she file for divorce and obtain a protective order. Lesa hired an attorney and served appellant with divorce papers. The appellant moved out of the home. The appellant and Lesa shared custody of their sons while working on a divorce settlement. Following a weekend during which appellant had custody of the boys, Lesa failed to show up for work. Lesa’s stepfather went to her home and found her body near the front door. Material found underneath Lesa’s fingernails was tested and determined to be consistent with appellant’s DNA. A month after Lesa’s death, appellant was arrested and charged with her murder. Prior to the trial, Appellant filed a motion in limine, stating that the car-dumping incident was inadmissible. The trial court denied the motion in limine and allowed Lesa’s sister to testify regarding the car-dumping incident. A counselor with whom Lesa had met several times after the incident also mentioned it in her testimony, as did the psychologist to whom Lesa and Appellant went for marriage counseling. After the marriage counselor testified, the trial judge gave the jury a limiting instruction, stating that the testimony should be used only in determining the intent or motive of the defendant, if any, in connection with the offense, if any, alleged against him in the indictment in this case, and for no other purpose. The state also elicited testimony regarding the car-dumping incident on cross-examination of appellant and his mother. The court of appeals determined that the car dumping incident had no purpose other than to show that appellant acted violently in the past and acted in conformity with this violent character on the night in question. The court of appeals held that the trial court abused its discretion in admitting the evidence and, after concluding that the error was harmful, reversed the judgment of the trial court. HOLDING: Reversed and remanded. The court of appeals failed to consider that the circumstances surrounding the relationship at the time of the killing is relevant evidence under Article 38.36(a) and the car dumping incident is admissible under Rule 404(b) for the purpose of illustrating the nature of their relationship. “The court of appeals misapplied the appellate harm standard of review by reversing the decision of the trial court simply because it disagreed with that decision.” OPINION:Meyers, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Keller, P.J., and Keasler, Hervey, Holcomb, and Cochran, J.J., joined. Johnson, J., concurred. Price, J., filed a dissenting opinion. Womack, J., did not participate. DISSENT:Price, J. “[E]ven assuming that the majority is correct today to claim that nature-of-the-relationship evidence is somehow a legitimate purpose, apart from “ill will,” under Rule 404(b), it does not adequately refute the court of appeals’s conclusion that evidence of the “car dumping” incident was substantially more prejudicial than probative. The majority declares that the court of appeals’s analysis was “inevitably skewed” by its failure to recognize the probative value of the evidence. To the extent that the majority’s nature of the relationship theory of admissibility is really just a reformulation of the State’s ill will theory, it is not accurate to say the court of appeals failed to recognize it. In fact, the court of appeals recognized it, and rightly rejected it. . . . The State argues that the evidence aside from the �car dumping’ incident was �overwhelming,’ and thus, any error was harmless. But the court of appeals disagreed, finding the evidence to be circumstantial, with exculpatory explanations offered for much of the otherwise seemingly inculpatory circumstances. References to the “car dumping” incident were pervasive during the trial, and it was emphasized during the State’s closing argument. Relying upon our opinion in Burnett v. State, the court of appeals declared itself in �equipoise’ on the question whether the error affected the appellant’s substantial rights, and rightly concluded it must reverse under these circumstances. I cannot find any fault with this analysis, and thus, I would affirm the judgment of the court of appeals. Because the Court does not, I respectfully dissent.”

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Benefits of a Digital Membership:

  • Free access to 3 articles* every 30 days
  • Access to the entire ALM network of websites
  • Unlimited access to the ALM suite of newsletters
  • Build custom alerts on any search topic of your choosing
  • Search by a wide range of topics

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.