Providence County Superior Court (P2/13-3785AG) Associate Justice Robert D. Krause
For State: Virginia M. McGinn Department of Attorney General.
For Defendant: Lara E. Montevalvo Office of the Public Defender.
Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.
WILLIAM P. ROBINSON III, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE.
The defendant, Jose Lopez, appeals to the Supreme Court from a judgment of conviction after a jury trial held in the Superior Court for Providence County. He was found guilty of the following counts: Count One, assault with a dangerous weapon on Jorge Semidey, in violation of G.L. 1956 § 11-5-2; Count Two, assault with a dangerous weapon against Maribel Bonet-Perez, in violation of § 11-5-2; Count Three, carrying a pistol without a license, in violation of G.L. 1956 § 11-47-8(a); Count Five, the discharge of a firearm while committing a crime of violence, in violation of § 11-47-3.2(b)(2); and Count Six, the use of a firearm while in the commission of a crime of violence, in violation of § 11-47-3.2(a). On appeal, the defendant contends that the trial justice erred in denying his motion for a new trial. More specifically, he argues that the trial justice overlooked or misconceived material evidence when he determined that the weight of the evidence supported the convictions because, in the defendant's view, two key witnesses were not credible and the forensic evidence failed to conclusively link him to the shooting at issue.
For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.
I Facts and Travel
On December 18, 2013, a criminal information was filed charging defendant with: Count One, assault with a dangerous weapon on Jorge Semidey, in violation of § 11-5-2; Count Two, assault with a dangerous weapon constituting domestic violence against Maribel Bonet-Perez, in violation of § 11-5-2 and G.L. 1956 § 12-29-5; Count Three, carrying a pistol without a license, in violation of § 11-47-8(a); Count Four, assault and battery, in violation of § 11-5-2; Count Five, discharging a firearm while committing a crime of violence, in violation of § 11-47-3.2(b)(2); Count Six, using a firearm while in the commission of a crime of violence, "to wit, assault with a dangerous weapon, " in violation of § 11-47-3.2(a); Count Seven, assault with intent to commit murder, in violation of § 11-5-1; Count Eight, using a firearm while in the commission of a crime of violence, "to wit, assault with intent to commit murder, " in violation of § 11-47-3.2(a); and Count Nine, discharging a firearm within the compact part of the City of Providence, in violation of § 11-47-50. The state dismissed Counts Four, Seven, Eight, Nine, and the domestic element of Count Two, pursuant to Rule 48(a) of the Superior Court Rules of Criminal Procedure. The defendant's trial began on March 3, 2014 and continued on March 4, 6, and 7. We recount below the salient aspects of the trial.
A The Testimony of Maribel Bonet-Perez
Maribel Bonet-Perez testified that, on December 1, 2012 (the date of the events that led to defendant's being criminally charged), she was living in the Chad Brown Housing Complex in Providence. She stated that she had met Mr. Lopez on November 3, 2012 and that the two had become "boyfriend/girlfriend." She further testified that she and defendant were "together" for about three weeks or a month before she broke up with him in order to "[go] back to [her] husband, " which is how she referred to Jorge Semidey. She next testified that she and defendant thereafter resumed their relationship, but that she subsequently broke up with him for a second time. She further testified that Mr. Semidey and defendant did not know one another, but that she had told defendant about Mr. Semidey.
It was the further testimony of Ms. Bonet-Perez that, between her second break-up with defendant and December 1, 2012, the two of them had communicated by cellphone. She testified that she spoke to defendant by phone on the afternoon of November 30 and that, in that conversation, he indicated to her that he was unwilling to have their relationship come to an end. She added that defendant requested that she come to a particular restaurant where he was located, and she stated that she complied with that request. Ms. Bonet-Perez said that she was accompanied on her drive to the restaurant by her cousin, Damaris Torres. She stated that, upon arriving at the restaurant, she and Ms. Torres remained in the car, while defendant stood outside the vehicle as he spoke with her. Ms. Bonet-Perez said that she and defendant talked for about five minutes and that she then left.
Ms. Bonet-Perez testified that, accompanied by Ms. Torres, she then returned home, where the two women changed in order to get ready to go "clubbing" as they had previously planned. Ms. Bonet-Perez stated that, after 10:00 p.m. that evening, she and Ms. Torres drove to a club in Providence. Ms. Bonet-Perez said that she saw defendant at that first club, but that they did not speak; she added that she left the club as soon as she saw him.
Ms. Bonet-Perez testified that she and Ms. Torres then went to a second club, where they remained until its closing, which she estimated to have been at around 1:45 a.m. on December 1. She said that, after leaving the second club, she and Ms. Torres drove back to her home; she added that, once there, the two women remained in the car for ten minutes, during which time, Jorge Semidey arrived and asked to go into her residence in order to retrieve some belongings he had left there. Ms. Bonet-Perez testified that while Mr. Semidey was in the residence, defendant unexpectedly pulled up behind her car, which he approached and began to pull her out. She added that she volunteered to get out of the car and "went with him as he was pulling [her]." She described defendant as being "mad;" and she said that, after pulling her from the car, he took a gun out.
Ms. Bonet-Perez further testified that an argument ensued between defendant and her behind her car and that the situation started escalating, culminating in defendant firing a gunshot "[t]o the floor." She stated that, after defendant started shooting, Mr. Semidey came out of the house, and he tried to calm him down, at which time Mr. Lopez fired his gun again, this time striking Mr. Semidey. She further stated that Mr. Semidey fell, but then got up to try to speak again to defendant, who continued shooting. She said that she could tell that Mr. Semidey had been struck by a bullet because he was bleeding. She testified that, in the same time frame, defendant pointed the gun at her head and neck, as well as at her armpit and stomach. She added that, while defendant had the gun pointed at her, she heard a "click" as he pulled the trigger a couple of times, causing her to feel "scared" and fearful that she was "going to die."
Ms. Bonet-Perez further testified that, after Mr. Semidey had been shot and defendant had pointed the gun at her, he began walking away. She stated that she then helped Mr. Semidey into her car and drove a short distance to a nearby parking area, where she ...