RANDY LARIOS v. THE STATE OF TEXAS

Reset A A Font size: Print

Court of Appeals of Texas, Houston (14th Dist.).

RANDY LARIOS, Appellant v. THE STATE OF TEXAS, Appellee

NO. 14-15-00996-CR

Decided: May 25, 2017

Panel consists of Justices Christopher, Jamison, and Donovan.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

In this appeal from a conviction for murder, the sole question presented is whether the evidence is sufficient to support the conviction.1 We conclude that it is, and we affirm the trial court's judgment.

The evidence showed that appellant went to two parties on two separate occasions, and both of them ended in gun violence. At the first party, there was a physical altercation between several partygoers. Two men, both of whom were gang members, broke up the crowd by firing their guns into the air. Appellant was part of the crowd that dispersed after the gunfire.

Appellant went to the second party two weeks later, where he learned that the two gang members from the first party were also in attendance. A friend at the party told appellant that the gang members were talking about him. Appellant left the party to remove his friend from the scene, but he returned later and waited in the parking lot just outside of the party.

As he waited, appellant saw the two gang members walk into the parking lot. Appellant pulled out a gun and fired five times. One of the gang members died from the gunfire. The other gang member returned fire, but appellant escaped injury by driving away.

When appellant was later apprehended, he initially denied any involvement in the shooting. Then he gave a recorded statement claiming that he had acted in self-defense. Appellant explained that he fired at the gang members because he believed that one of them was reaching for a gun on his waist. On the recorded statement, appellant also admitted that he returned to the second party to confront the gang members and to seek revenge for what had unfolded at the first party.

The jury rejected appellant's claim of self-defense and convicted him as charged.

When reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence, we examine all of the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict and determine whether a rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. See Temple v. State, 390 S.W.3d 341, 360 (Tex. Crim. App. 2013). The evidence is legally insufficient when the record contains no evidence, or merely a “modicum” of evidence, probative of an element of the offense. See Garcia v. State, 367 S.W.3d 683, 687 (Tex. Crim. App. 2012).

Although we consider everything presented at trial, we do not reevaluate the weight and credibility of the evidence or substitute our judgment for that of the fact finder. See Williams v. State, 235 S.W.3d 742, 750 (Tex. Crim. App. 2007). Because the jury is the sole judge of the credibility of witnesses and of the weight given to their testimony, any conflicts or inconsistencies in the evidence are resolved in favor of the verdict. See Wesbrook v. State, 29 S.W.3d 103, 111 (Tex. Crim. App. 2000).

Our review includes both properly and improperly admitted evidence. See Clayton v. State, 235 S.W.3d 772, 778 (Tex. Crim. App. 2007). We also consider both direct and circumstantial evidence, as well as any reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the evidence. Id. Circumstantial evidence is as probative as direct evidence in establishing the guilt of an actor, and circumstantial evidence alone can be sufficient to establish guilt. See Hopper v. State, 214 S.W.3d 9, 13 (Tex. Crim. App. 2007).

To obtain a conviction for murder, the State was required to prove either of the following: (1) that appellant intentionally or knowingly caused the death of the complainant; or (2) that appellant intended to cause serious bodily injury to the complainant, and appellant committed an act clearly dangerous to human life that caused the death of the complainant. See Tex. Penal Code § 19.02(b)(1)–(2).

A rational jury could have found beyond a reasonable doubt that appellant intentionally caused the death of the complainant. The evidence showed that the complainant died because he was shot with a deadly weapon, and appellant admitted that he was the person who had fired the deadly weapon. The jury could have inferred an intent to kill by appellant's use of the deadly weapon. See Brown v. State, 122 S.W.3d 794, 800 (Tex. Crim. App. 2003). The intent to kill could also be inferred by appellant's statement that he had been seeking revenge.

Appellant responds that no rational jury could have convicted him because the evidence showed that he had acted in self-defense. Appellant seems to contend that he established his self-defense theory as a matter of law, but “the issue of self-defense is an issue of fact to be determined by the jury.” See Saxton v. State, 804 S.W.2d 910, 913 (Tex. Crim. App. 1991). The State's burden on this issue is merely one of persuasion—i.e., to disprove the claim of self-defense—and the State satisfies this burden by proving that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Id. “A jury verdict of guilty is an implicit finding rejecting the defendant's self-defense theory.” Id. at 914.

Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict, we conclude that there is sufficient evidence from which “any rational trier of fact would have found the essential elements of murder beyond a reasonable doubt and would have also found against appellant on the self-defense issue beyond a reasonable doubt.” Id.

The trial court's judgment is affirmed.

FOOTNOTES

1.   Appellant's brief was filed by his appointed counsel, Vivian R. King. After this appeal was submitted, King accepted employment with the Harris County District Attorney's Office. We abated this appeal for appointment of new counsel, and the trial court appointed Dena Fisher. Because this appeal had already been submitted, Fisher did not file a new brief. We therefore address the only point of error in the brief filed by King.

Tracy Christopher Justice