District Court, Salt Lake Department The Honorable Paul B.
Parker No. 161901897
Daines, Attorney for Appellant
D. Reyes and Jeffrey D. Mann, Attorneys for Appellee
Kate Appleby authored this Opinion, in which Judges Jill M.
Pohlman and Ryan M. Harris concurred.
Erika Vigil (Defendant) saw her live-in boyfriend (Boyfriend)
point a gun at the head of someone (Victim) who was trying to
help her. Boyfriend also took Victim's wallet and phone
before fleeing the scene. Once the police arrived and
questioned her, Defendant repeatedly denied knowing the
person who committed these crimes and gave them a name she
knew was false. Ultimately, though, her relationship with
Boyfriend came to light and she was charged with obstructing
justice and convicted after a jury trial. Defendant appeals,
arguing she received ineffective assistance of counsel when
her attorney did not object to one of the jury instructions.
Victim was returning home after removing snow from his
neighbors' driveways when Defendant, who "looked
frantic and scared," approached him asking for
help. Defendant had just escaped from a car
Boyfriend was driving after he assaulted her because he
believed she had "snitched" to the police about a
friend. In light of Defendant's distress, Victim handed
her his phone and she made a call, then asked him for a ride.
Victim urged Defendant to call the police, but she refused.
A car approached, parking near them, and Boyfriend yelled at
Defendant, "Get in the fucking car, bitch." Victim
raised his phone to photograph Boyfriend, who "exited
the vehicle with a handkerchief up over his face with a gun
drawn running at [Victim]." Victim testified the gun was
"pointed in [his] face and [Boyfriend] demand[ed] [his]
phone." Victim threw down the phone and Defendant picked
it up then took Victim's wallet.
After a person in a nearby house opened a door and announced
"[t]he cops are on their way," Boyfriend got back
into the car and fled the scene, but within a short distance
his car collided with another vehicle. Defendant went to
Boyfriend's car and looked for something, then asked the
driver of the other vehicle "where [Boyfriend]
went." After the vehicle's driver told Defendant
that Boyfriend had "just [run] up the street,"
Defendant said she would "go find him."
Defendant eventually went inside a nearby house, where she
was interviewed by one officer, then another. Apparently
unwilling to "snitch" on Boyfriend, Defendant told
each officer she had accepted a ride from a stranger because
he was "cute," and she repeatedly said she did not
know the car's driver, but thought his name was Joey.
Defendant also gave the officers misleading information about
where she lived. Not surprisingly, the ensuing search for
"Joey" was unsuccessful. After more than a week of
investigation, the police identified Boyfriend as a suspect
and learned that he and Defendant lived in the same
apartment. They obtained surveillance video from a store
Boyfriend ran through after the crash and showed it to
Defendant, who finally identified Boyfriend.
Defendant was charged with obstruction of justice, and the
matter proceeded to a jury trial. At the conclusion of trial,
the judge asked counsel about the proposed jury instructions,
including Instruction 28, and Defendant's counsel (Trial
Counsel) said, "They look good to the defense."
Instruction 28 told the jury that to convict Defendant of
obstructing justice, it must find that she:
Knowingly or intentionally, and with intent to hinder, delay,
or prevent the investigation, apprehension, prosecution,
conviction, or punishment of any person regarding conduct
that constitutes a criminal offense; (a) Prevented by
deception, any person from performing any act that might aid
in the discovery, apprehension, prosecution, conviction, or
punishment of any person; OR (b) Provided false information
regarding a ...