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State v. Dominguez

Court of Appeals of Utah

July 5, 2019

State of Utah, Appellee,
v.
Julio Alphonso Dominguez, Appellant.

          Second District Court, Ogden Department The Honorable Scott M. Hadley No. 161900320

          Troy L. Booher and Freyja R. Johnson, Attorneys for Appellant

          Sean D. Reyes and Jeffrey D. Mann, Attorneys for Appellee

          Judge Michele M. Christiansen Forster authored this Opinion, in which Judges Jill M. Pohlman and Ryan M. Harris concurred.

          OPINION

          CHRISTIANSEN FORSTER, JUDGE:

         ¶1 Julio Alphonso Dominguez appeals his conviction of aggravated burglary. We affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶2 Dominguez went to a club with three male friends-his eventual codefendants Eric Duran, Davy Ray Martinez (D. Martinez), and Jaime Martinez (J. Martinez)-and two female friends. The group met Victim for the first time at the club. Victim had been drinking heavily. Victim invited the group, along with another woman (Witness) and her two male friends to come to his apartment to continue drinking.

         ¶3 While walking to Victim's apartment from the car, Victim put his arm around one of Dominguez's female friends and touched her breast.[1] This upset J. Martinez, who told Victim not to touch his "girl." Victim made some form of apology, which apparently diffused the situation, and the group continued to Victim's apartment.

         ¶4 When the group arrived at Victim's apartment, they continued drinking. Victim was pushy with Dominguez and his friends, insisting that they "sit down" when they did not want to and telling them they could not play music on their phones. According to Dominguez, Victim then began goading them, stating, "You guys think you're so bad. I bet I could take all four of you on." He then pushed Duran, who retaliated by punching Victim. The fight escalated, and all four codefendants attacked Victim, punching and kicking him in the face and body. At some point, the fighting stopped long enough for Victim to run into his bedroom and lock the door.

         ¶5 When the fight between the men first began, and before Victim escaped to his bedroom, Dominguez's two female friends were in the bedroom. At some point during the fighting, they left the bedroom and apparently saw the fight going on in the hallway. Dominguez and one of the women testified that the two women ran back into the bedroom when they saw the fighting and were inside the room when Victim ran in and locked the door behind him. In contrast, Victim and Witness testified that the women did not go back into the bedroom and were outside the room when Victim locked himself inside. And another witness, one of Witness's male friends, testified that he did not see anyone else in the bedroom when Victim shut the door.

         ¶6 After Victim locked himself in his bedroom, the codefendants broke down the door. According to Dominguez, their purpose for breaking down the door was to rescue the two women because they could hear the women screaming and were worried about their safety due to Victim's earlier aggressiveness and his touching one of the women. When the door gave way, the codefendants rushed in and began punching and kicking Victim again.

         ¶7 Eventually, the codefendants finished beating Victim and ran out of the apartment. When they left, Witness went into the bedroom to check on Victim. While she was there, Duran returned to the apartment. According to Witness, Duran held up Victim's keys and told him, "We've got your keys. Give me your wallet." Victim began to pull out his wallet, and Witness stood in the door and told Duran to leave. He responded, "Move, bitch, I'm going to stab this fool." Witness told him, "Nobody's stabbing nobody," at which point D. Martinez "walked up . . . behind" Duran and punched Witness in the face. Witness fell to the floor and blacked out. When she regained consciousness, Dominguez was in the room, and she saw him punch Victim three more times.

         ¶8 All four codefendants were charged with aggravated burglary based on the allegation that they broke into the bedroom for the purpose of assaulting Victim, along with lesser included offenses of assault. Duran and D. Martinez were also charged with aggravated robbery, and D. Martinez was charged with an additional assault in connection with the allegation that he hit Witness.

         ¶9 Following the incident, Witness gave a statement to police regarding the location of Dominguez's two female friends during the fighting. She stated, "The girls were in the back bedroom and ran out when the boys went in the bedroom."[2] At trial, defense counsel confronted Witness with this statement, attempting to impeach her trial testimony that the women left the room before Victim locked himself inside. Witness explained the discrepancy by clarifying, "What I meant by 'running out,' is running out of the apartment."

         ¶10 Prior to trial, the court granted a motion in limine to exclude Dominguez's criminal record from the State's case-in-chief. Nevertheless, at one point in the trial, one of the police officers who investigated the case (Officer) was asked, "[D]id you run Julio Dominguez's history and access his driver's license photograph?" Officer responded, "I don't remember exactly how I was able to identify him. I believe it was through his mug shot that we have on file." Defense counsel objected, and the court conducted a discussion at the bench off the record. The prosecutor then continued with a different line of questioning. Defense counsel subsequently moved for a mistrial. The court denied the motion, concluding that although the statement was clearly inadmissible and potentially prejudicial, Officer's statement was inadvertent and any damage was mitigated because defense counsel did not draw attention to it and the prosecution moved to a different line of inquiry.

         ¶11 Dominguez's counsel requested a jury instruction on defense of others, and the primary defense asserted at trial was that Dominguez and his codefendants were justified in breaking down Victim's bedroom door because they did so with the purpose of protecting the women, who were locked in the room with Victim. Counsel approved the following jury instruction:

A person is justified in threatening or using force against another when and to the extent that he or she reasonably believes that force is necessary to defend himself or a third person against such other's imminent use of unlawful force.
In determining imminence or reasonableness, the trier of fact may consider, but is not limited to, any of the following factors:
(1)the nature of the danger;
(2)the immediacy of the danger;
(3)the probability that the unlawful force would result in death or ...

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