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Merida v. State

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

June 24, 2014

Javier Merida
v.
State of Rhode Island

Page 546

Providence County Superior Court. (PM 09-900). Associate Justice Netti C. Vogel.

For Petitioner: Sean R. Doherty, Esq.

For State: Lauren S. Zurier, Department of Attorney General.

Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.

OPINION

Page 547

Goldberg, Justice.

In this appeal, we review the denial of an application for postconviction relief. Javier Merida (Merida or applicant) was convicted of two counts of first-degree child molestation and one count of second-degree child molestation. We affirmed those convictions in his direct appeal. See State v. Merida, 960 A.2d 228, 240 (R.I. 2008). Merida then applied for postconviction relief, arguing that he was deprived of his right to the effective assistance of counsel. Merida's application for postconviction relief was denied. The applicant sought review by this Court, and both parties appeared pursuant to an order directing them to show cause why the issues

Page 548

raised in this appeal should not be decided summarily. We are satisfied that cause has not been shown, and we affirm the denial of the application for postconviction relief.

Facts and Travel

This Court thoroughly recounted the facts as borne out by the trial testimony in our consideration of applicant's direct appeal. See Merida, 960 A.2d at 230-34. Therefore, we only recount facts salient to this appeal and other facts as necessary for context.

During the May 2006 trial, the complainant, Betsy,[1] testified that Merida--her paternal grandfather--repeatedly molested her when she was between the ages of seven and ten years. Merida, 960 A.2d at 230-31. She testified that the molestations occurred during weekends spent with her paternal grandparents, but when her paternal grandmother was not home. Id. at 231. Specifically, Betsy testified to one instance of breast grabbing, one instance of digital-vaginal penetration, and three instances of vaginal intercourse; however, the testimony of a third instance of vaginal intercourse was unexpected. Id.

Merida's niece by marriage, Lisa, also testified at trial. Merida, 960 A.2d at 233. Lisa testified that, when she was five to ten years old, Merida molested her when she was alone with him. Id. The trial justice permitted this testimony over objection by trial counsel, who argued that the evidence should have been excluded under Rule 404(b) of the Rhode Island Rules of Evidence. Merida, 960 A.2d at 232. Although Lisa was the first witness to testify ...


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