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State v. Padilla

Court of Appeals of Utah

June 14, 2018

State of Utah, Appellee,
v.
Ricardo Antonio Padilla, Appellant.

          Third District Court, Salt Lake Department The Honorable James T. Blanch No. 131907679

          Marshall M. Thompson and Andrea J. Garland, Attorneys for Appellant.

          Sean D. Reyes and Marian Decker, Attorneys for Appellee.

          Judge Jill M. Pohlman authored this Opinion, in which Judges David N. Mortensen and Diana Hagen concurred.

          POHLMAN, Judge.

         ¶1 Ricardo Antonio Padilla appeals his convictions for felony discharge of a firearm and obstruction of justice. He argues that the trial court erred by refusing to give a cautionary instruction to the jury about accomplice testimony. He also argues that he received constitutionally ineffective assistance of counsel when his counsel failed to renew a motion for mistrial. We affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶2 A jury convicted Padilla of felony discharge of a firearm and obstruction of justice based on his involvement in events that led to the death of a rival gang member (Victim). One evening in July 2013, Padilla, a member of the 18th Street gang, and five others left his apartment to go tagging.[1] They took two cars. While driving, one of Padilla's cohorts recognized someone from a rival gang standing with a group in front of a house. The two cars circled back around and another of Padilla's cohorts shot and killed Victim.

         ¶3 The State charged Padilla with murder, felony discharge of a weapon, and obstruction of justice, all first degree felonies. He was initially tried with two codefendants, both of whom were involved in the shooting.

         ¶4 During trial, the State established Padilla's involvement in Victim's death largely based on the testimony of two of Padilla's other companions, both of whom were present in one of the vehicles during the shooting.[2] On the third day of the trial, one of those companions testified that, shortly before the shooting, Padilla said that they were going to return to the house where they had spotted Victim, "ask him which gang he belonged to, " and, depending on Victim's answer, shoot him.

         ¶5 Based on this testimony, defense counsel for Padilla and the two codefendants moved for mistrial on confrontation grounds, arguing that they could not confront Padilla's out-of-court testimony. See Bruton v. United States, 391 U.S. 123, 126, 136-37 (1968) (holding that the petitioner's constitutional right to confrontation had been violated, notwithstanding curative instructions, when a codefendant's confession was admitted and inculpated the petitioner). As to Padilla in particular, defense counsel acknowledged that Padilla's "position is weaker" than the other two codefendants, but nonetheless argued that if the other codefendants "are suddenly gone and [Padilla] is alone then it is perhaps prejudicial."

         ¶6 The court granted the motion for mistrial as to Padilla's codefendants but denied it as to Padilla. In doing so, the court gave a curative instruction to the jury, addressing how the jury should view the codefendants' dismissals:

The trial will proceed tomorrow morning, but it will only involve one of the defendants. Two of the defendants, there are legal reasons that we cannot proceed against them, so we are only going to proceed against [Padilla].
I want to instruct you and admonish you that you are not to draw any conclusions from that at all. It doesn't mean that the Court determined that the other defendants lack responsibility for anything. It doesn't mean that the Court determined that they do. It doesn't mean that they entered pleas. It doesn't mean anything other than the fact for legal reasons we cannot proceed against them.
So that's not something you should hold against [Padilla]. It doesn't mean anything with respect to his role in this versus anyone else's role. And so no conclusions really can be drawn one way or the other with respect to the fact we are only proceeding with regard to one of the defendants.

         The court asked Padilla's counsel if this instruction was satisfactory, and counsel responded that it was.

         ¶7 The next day, the court again addressed the jury, stating that the bailiff "told [the court] . . . that [the jury] had asked questions of him whether there was any testimony or evidence that [it] ...


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