District Court, Salt Lake Department The Honorable James T.
Blanch No. 131907679
Marshall M. Thompson and Andrea J. Garland, Attorneys for
D. Reyes and Marian Decker, Attorneys for Appellee.
Jill M. Pohlman authored this Opinion, in which Judges David
N. Mortensen and Diana Hagen concurred.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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. 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.
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."
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.
court asked Padilla's counsel if this instruction was
satisfactory, and counsel responded that it was.
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] ...