The Insanity Defense, Prior Bad Acts, Broken Plea Agreements and Witness Testimony!


(unpublished Supreme Court opinion affirming murder conviction)

Cruz-Garcia killed Beatriz Alvarez Torres and inured her two children. He was charged with 1st degree murder and 2 counts of attempted murder. He claimed the insanity defense to these counts, and the jury found him guilty of all charges.

After his conviction, his defense discovered that the State's office had withheld evidence of a rental payment they had made in behalf of the two surviving victims. He filed for a new trial based on this discovery, since it undermines the credibility and the testimony that the victims gave. His second main complaint in his appeal was that the insanity jury instructions were erroneous. 



(unpublished Supreme Court opinion affirming murder conviction)

Amadeo Sanchez was convicted by a jury of first-degree murder with the use of a deadly weapon.  Sanchez allegedly shot his friend who owed him and the cartel drug repayment.

On appeal, Sanchez argued the district court should not have allowed evidence of prior acts (prior drug dealings, alleged physical assault, and cartel involvement.  Also, Sanchez argued that he was not allowed to impeach his wife's testimony regarding prior inconsistent statements.

The Court held that the testimony regarding prior bad acts was admissible under the "res gestae" doctrine NRS 48.035(3) finding that the "testimony was necessary to paint a complete picture of the crime" as the State was charging under both theories of first-degree murder and felony murder rule.

The Court also ruled that the prior inconsistent statement was inadmissible hearsay as Sanchez's wife told police she "had heard Carter [victim] had shot someone in the head or something like that."

Lastly, appellant argued that there was a problem with the jury instructions, specifically that the felony murder instruction should not have been included as the only evidence to support the felony murder theory was the prior bad acts.  The Court disagreed finding that "here was substantial evidence to justify a felony murder jury instruction."


(unpublished Court of Appeals opinion affirming in part, reversing in part)

Constantino had entered into a plea agreement with prosecution.  He accepted their deal in return for early parole eligibility.  He filed a post-conviction writ of habeas corpus in district court arguing the State reneged on the plea deal and wanted to withdraw his guilty plea.  In addition, Constantino argues that the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC) improperly calculated his parole eligibility date. 

The Court of Appeals held that "because parole is an act of grace of the State, this renders Constantino's challenge to the calculation of his parole eligibility date moot as the only remedy available would be to order the parole board to conduct a hearing." (NRS 213.10705)  As the Court had no authority to order this and there is no statute or case law authority permitting a retroactive grant of parole, the Court denied this claim.

The Court did reverse and remanded Mr. Constantino second claim because the petition should have gone to the county where he was convicted.  White Pine mistakenly ruled on the issue when this case was actually from Washoe County.  The Court remanded for further proceedings on that issue with Washoe County.


(unpublished Court of Appeals opinion affirming battery convictions)

Antonio Castillo moved for mistrial after his judgment of conviction, on the basis of witness testimony prejudicing the jury. The jury had convicted him of battery with a deadly weapon causing substantial bodily harm, another count of battery with a deadly weapon but with the intent to promote and assist criminal gang activity, and also two counts of discharging a firearm into a structure with the intent to promote gang activity.

Castillo argues to the Court of Appeals that the district court erred in denying his motion for mistrial. The motion was brought forth after a witness was asked why she was not afraid, to which she replied "because most of them are in prison, and I don't have to worry about the 3 that are not." This statement put into question his custodial status in front of the jury, resulting in a mistrial because the jury could take this testimony to mean he is already in custody and therefore is guilty.

The district court did instruct the jury, "Do not allow whatever you think you heard her say affect your deliberations or thought process or decision-making in this case whatsoever in any manner."  Her statement was struck from the record.  The Court of Appeals upheld the ruling by the lower court and denied his claims for a mistrial.  The Court opined that the mistrial denial was justified because the statement was struck from the record.  The Court also pointed out that most of the jury did not even hear the statement in the first place as the record showed several jurors asked to hear the statement again that they were instructed to ignore.  The Court denied theappeal because Castillo did not prove how the testimony could have prejudiced the jury.