IN RE: D.A.K.

Reset A A Font size: Print

Court of Appeals of Texas, Houston (1st Dist.).

IN RE: D.A.K., Appellant

NO. 01-17-00211-CV

Decided: October 12, 2017

Panel consists of Justices Higley, Massengale, and Lloyd.

OPINION

Appellant D.A.K., a juvenile, was found to have engaged in delinquent conduct. See TEX. FAMILY CODE § 51.03. On appeal, he argues that the evidence was insufficient to support adjudicating him as a delinquent because it did not support the allegation that he committed the felony offense of aggravated assault. See TEX. PENAL CODE §§ 22.01, 22.02. We affirm.

Background

Myeisha Crockett, the complainant, was driving in her neighborhood in Humble on a weekday afternoon when she stopped at a stop sign at an intersection. She noticed D.A.K., who was then over 161//2 years old, among several other young men gathered on the curb near the stop sign.

D.A.K. and the other men looked at each other and exchanged words as they approached the car. As Crockett proceeded through the intersection, D.A.K. kicked the moving car. Crockett veered and her car came to a stop in the middle of the intersection. Immediately, she was surrounded by D.A.K. and the others.

After Crockett got out of the car, D.A.K. and two others approached her, coming within arm's reach. They loudly and verbally threatened her. According to Danielle Torres, an eyewitness who recognized D.A.K. from the neighborhood, the situation then “got out of hand.” One of the men, identified at trial as “Monterious,” showed Crockett a gun. Torres heard screaming and someone yelling “gun.” While the men stood together and the gun was exhibited, D.A.K. threatened to beat and kill Crockett. Crockett's parents then arrived at the scene, and D.A.K. and the others fled.

Harris County Deputy Constable P. Villareal responded to a call about the incident. He found no weapons or suspects when he arrived, but he learned the “street names” of two of the men involved. Villareal was familiar with these names from prior investigations about neighborhood shootings. He gave the names to Harris County Deputy Constable Z. Ryan, who was investigating another offense involving the same men.

After an investigation, Ryan developed a photographic lineup from which D.A.K. was identified as a suspect. As the investigation continued, D.A.K. was detained in connection with a different offense, and Ryan took custody of him. D.A.K. was charged with aggravated assault, as a juvenile.

At D.A.K.'s trial, Crockett described the incident in the intersection. She testified that when D.A.K. threatened her, he was aware of the presence of the gun. Both Villareal and Ryan testified about the investigation and identification of D.A.K. as a suspect. Crockett, Torres, and Ryan all identified D.A.K. at trial.

D.A.K. presented two witnesses who offered alternative accounts of what happened. Among other things, sisters Napazia Johnson and Dakia Brown testified that they were in a car near the intersection. They recognized a young man from school named Monterious, who showed a gun to Crockett. Brown confirmed that Monterious was only “a couple of feet” away from Crockett at that time.

The court adjudicated D.A.K. as delinquent and in need of rehabilitation, placing him on probation until his eighteenth birthday. D.A.K. appealed.

Analysis

D.A.K. raises a single issue on appeal, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support the judgment. He asserts that the State failed to prove that he threatened Crockett with imminent bodily injury or that he exhibited a deadly weapon during the incident.

Although juvenile-court proceedings are considered civil cases, they are quasi-criminal in nature. In re Hall, 286 S.W.3d 925, 927 (Tex. 2009); see TEX. FAM. CODE § 51.17(a). We use criminal-law standards to review the sufficiency of the evidence to support a judgment of juvenile delinquency. E.g., In re D.O., 226 S.W.3d 483, 485 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2006, no pet.).

In assessing sufficiency of the evidence, we determine whether, based on all of the record evidence viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, a rational jury could have found the accused guilty of all essential elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319, 99 S. Ct. 2781, 2789 (1979); Brooks v. State, 323 S.W.3d 893, 895 (Tex. Crim. App. 2010). The factfinder is the sole judge of “the facts proved, and of the weight to be given to the testimony.” See Bartlett v. State, 270 S.W.3d 147, 150 (Tex. Crim. App. 2008). Thus, an appellate court does not resolve any conflict of fact, weigh any evidence, or evaluate the credibility of any witnesses, as this is the function of the trier of fact. See Adames v. State, 353 S.W.3d 854, 860 (Tex. Crim. App. 2011); Wiley v. State, 388 S.W.3d 807, 813 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2012, pet. ref'd). We apply the same analysis to review a finding that a juvenile engaged in delinquent conduct for both legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence. In re R.R., 373 S.W.3d 730, 734 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2012, pet. denied) (citing Brooks, 323 S.W.3d at 895).

In a case alleging aggravated assault, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed assault and either caused serious bodily injury to another person or used or exhibited a deadly weapon during the commission of the assault. TEX. PENAL CODE § 22.02. As relevant to this case, one way a person can commit assault is by intentionally or knowingly threatening another with imminent bodily injury. Id. § 22.01(a)(2).

The law of parties provides that a “person is criminally responsible as a party to an offense if the offense is committed by his own conduct, by the conduct of another for which he is criminally responsible, or by both.” Id. § 7.01(a). A person is criminally responsible for the conduct of another if, while “acting with intent to promote or assist the commission of the offense, he solicits, encourages, directs, aids, or attempts to aid the other person to commit the offense.” Id. § 7.02(a)(2). “Each party to an offense may be charged with commission of the offense.” Id. § 7.01(b). Thus, the law of parties enables the State to “enlarge a defendant's criminal responsibility to include acts in which he may not have been the principal actor.” Ryser v. State, 453 S.W.3d 17, 28 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2014, pet. ref'd).

Crockett testified that D.A.K. threatened to beat and kill her while he stood within arm's reach. Although Johnson and Brown offered different and sometimes conflicting testimony, the trial court, as factfinder, was required to resolve the conflicts in the testimony and assess the credibility of the witnesses. See Adames, 353 S.W.3d at 860; Wiley, 388 S.W.3d at 813. The trial court was entitled to rely on Crockett's testimony, which was evidence that D.A.K. intentionally or knowingly threatened her with imminent bodily injury, and it was legally sufficient evidence of assault. See TEX. PENAL CODE § 22.01.

D.A.K. contends that the evidence is insufficient to show that he personally exhibited a deadly weapon. Under a law-of-parties theory, it is immaterial whether D.A.K. or Monterious personally exhibited a weapon, so long as the evidence supports a conclusion that the men were acting together, each doing some part while committing the offense. See, e.g., Rodriguez v. State, 521 S.W.3d 822, 828–29 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2017, no pet.). The evidence supported a conclusion that D.A.K. and Monterious acted together. They were seen together near the stop sign as Crockett approached the intersection. They were seen talking and exchanging looks as they approached the car. D.A.K. was the first to kick the car, but Torres testified that she saw the other men kicking the car after it came to a stop in the intersection. Crockett testified that D.A.K. said he would beat or kill her, but she also said that all of the men were threatening her. Crockett also testified that D.A.K. was aware of the gun, which Monterious showed at the time D.A.K. threatened to kill her, and while both men were close to her. Finally, all of the men fled the scene together.

The evidence supported a conclusion that D.A.K. and Monterious aided and assisted each other in the commission of aggravated assault. As such, we conclude that the evidence was sufficient under a law-of-parties theory to show that D.A.K. committed aggravated assault. The trial court thus properly found that D.A.K. was delinquent and in need of supervision.

We overrule D.A.K.'s sole issue.

Conclusion

We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Michael Massengale Justice