County Superior Court, P1/14-2045AG Associate Justice Robert
State: Jane M. McSoley Department of Attorney General
Defendant: Lara E. Montecalvo Office of the Public Defender
Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and
Francis X. Flaherty Associate Justice.
Flaherty, for the Court. The defendant, Chaquiro Blandino,
appeals from a judgment of conviction after a jury found him
guilty of (1) first-degree murder of Francis Rodriguez; (2)
discharging a firearm during a crime of violence (murder),
resulting in the death of Rodriguez; (3) assault with a
dangerous weapon (a firearm) upon Marvin Vasquez; (4)
discharging a firearm during a crime of violence (assault
with a dangerous weapon), without causing injury to Vasquez;
(5) discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle, creating a
substantial risk of injury to Rodriguez and Vasquez; and (6)
unlawfully carrying a pistol without a license. The defendant
filed a motion for a new trial, which the trial justice
denied. The trial justice imposed consecutive life sentences
on counts 1 and 2; a consecutive ten-year sentence on count
3; a consecutive ten-year sentence, non-parolable, on count
4; and concurrent ten-year sentences, suspended with
probation, on counts 5 and 6, to run consecutive to count 4.
Before this Court, the defendant asserts that the trial
justice erred when he denied the defendant's request to
order the state to produce the investigative notes of Det.
Angelo A'Vant of the Providence Police Department. The
defendant further contends that the trial justice erred when
he denied the defendant's motion for a new trial. After
careful consideration of the defendant's arguments and a
thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of
and Trial Testimony
is little factual dispute in this case. It is uncontroverted
that defendant shot and killed Francis Rodriguez on May 2,
2014. It is also undisputed that defendant had previously
been robbed, shot, and frequently harassed by members of the
"C-Block" gang. The only question at trial was whether
the killing of Rodriguez was a cold-blooded, premeditated
murder or an act of self-defense. The jury found it to be the
central issue on appeal is whether defendant was entitled to
certain notes taken by Det. A'Vant during the course of
his investigation. Those notes, defendant argues, may have
contained information about the potential C-Block membership
or association of Rodriguez, the murder victim, and
Vasquez, the main witness for the state. The defendant also
posits that Det. A'Vant's notes could have included
information about defendant's reputation to C-Block as a
snitch and the gang's ensuing harassment of him.
According to defendant, access to the notes would have helped
him more effectively pursue and present his theory of
self-defense. The defendant claims that that access would
clearly have depicted the life-threatening violence he
experienced at the hands of C-Block members and his resulting
need to respond with deadly force when Vasquez and
Rodriguez-purported members (or at least associates) of the
gang- pulled a gun on him.
effectively analyze defendant's claim, it is first
necessary to parse through defendant's description of his
tangled history with C-Block. In January of 2011, when he was
sixteen years old, defendant went to see a girl. As he made
his way into her home, a young male, who was later identified
as a member of C-Block, pointed a gun at defendant and forced
him to remove and hand over his pants, shirt, shoes, and
watch. While defendant was in this state of undress, the
C-Block member pistol-whipped defendant and demanded he leave
the building. Needing no further invitation, defendant fled
down the street. As he did, he was stopped by a Providence
police officer. The defendant relayed to the officer that he
had been robbed and beaten, and he later testified before a
grand jury to that effect.
consequently labeled defendant as a snitch. Members of the
gang began following defendant; first at his high school,
then at the Community College of Rhode Island. The defendant
claims he was assaulted with a baseball bat on one occasion.
Out of fear, however, defendant simply endured the
harassment. He never again reported a C-Block member to the
November of 2013, defendant was working at his mother's
restaurant, which is located on Elmwood Avenue just blocks
away from C-Block's main territory on Congress Avenue.
Behind the restaurant, defendant said, he saw C-Block members
approaching and that one of them was flashing a silver
The defendant jumped a fence and ran away as fast as he
could. Despite his best efforts to escape, defendant was shot
once in the back and once in the leg. He was forced to
undergo surgery and remain in the hospital for over a week.
When he recovered, defendant refused to cooperate with
authorities during the prosecution of the C-Block member who
was ultimately convicted and incarcerated for the shooting.
The defendant maintained that he had learned his lesson after
the 2011 robbery; he would not snitch on the gang again.
his silence, defendant said that his troubles with C-Block
continued. According to him, gang members knew that he worked
nearby, and they continued to follow and harass him. On May
2, 2014, the day of Rodriguez's death, defendant
testified that he was sitting in his mother's minivan
outside the restaurant, waiting to make a delivery, when a
green Subaru containing Rodriguez and Vasquez pulled up
alongside his vehicle. The defendant testified that he knew
both men from the local barbershop; he also declared that he
knew them both to be C-Block members. According to defendant,
Rodriguez drew his finger across his throat-a sign that
defendant said he interpreted as a death threat. At that
point, defendant drove off and picked up his friend, Nelson
Pineda. The two drove around Providence, smoking marijuana
and making deliveries for defendant's mother.
defendant said that, later that afternoon, as defendant and
Pineda were in the area of the restaurant, they saw the same
green Subaru approaching them. Rodriguez and Vasquez were
still in the car. The driver of the Subaru tried to block
defendant's minivan at a stop sign, such that he could
not turn left or right. Rodriguez emerged from the Subaru and
yelled insults at defendant. Pineda later testified that
defendant responded in a similar vein. The defendant was able
to maneuver the minivan around the Subaru, but he said that,
as he was pulling away, he heard a loud bang from the rear of
the car and concluded that Rodriguez had hit the rear window.
Indeed, according to Pineda's testimony, Rodriguez struck
the minivan with what looked to him like the barrel of a
The defendant and Pineda got away, for the time being.
defendant further testified that, at that point, having been
confronted and threatened by Rodriguez twice in one day, he
drove home and retrieved a gun. Once back in the car, defendant
said, he placed the gun to the right of the driver's
seat, hidden from Pineda's view in the passenger seat.
Pineda testified that he was too high from smoking marijuana
to realize that they had stopped at defendant's house or
that defendant returned in possession of a gun. The two then
went back to the restaurant.
8 p.m., defendant and Pineda were driving around again. This
time, they stopped on Warrington Street to roll
blunts. The minivan was parked on top of a speed
on the right side of the road, facing in the direction of
Broad Street, with the engine and lights off and the keys
still in the ignition. As defendant was finishing cracking
open a cigar, he opened his window to discard the tobacco. It
was then that he noticed headlights approaching. When he
looked more closely, defendant said, he realized it was
Rodriguez's green Subaru yet again. Suddenly their open
drivers' windows were mere feet apart.
testimony of the witnesses diverged as to what happened next.
The defendant testified that he saw Rodriguez leaning forward
while Vasquez pointed a gun at him from the passenger seat.
Thinking he was about to die, defendant testified, he ducked
down and grabbed the gun from the floor with his right hand.
The defendant said that, while still crouching, he pointed
the gun over his head and fired out the window; he could not
recall how many times. The defendant then started the car and
drove away, not knowing whether he had shot either Rodriguez
or Vasquez. He said that he dropped Pineda off at his house.
Pineda was called as a witness for the state; his testimony
regarding the shooting substantially mirrored that of
who was also called by the state, offered a markedly
different version of events. He said that he and Rodriguez
had spent the day simply driving around Providence smoking
marijuana. Vasquez denied that any sort of verbal or physical
altercation between defendant and Rodriguez had occurred
earlier that day. According to Vasquez, neither he nor
Rodriguez had a gun in the car when Rodriguez was killed.
Vasquez claimed that, at the time of the shooting, he was
high, reclined in the passenger seat, drinking a beer,
staring into space, and dozing off. While Rodriguez was
slowing down to cross the speed hump on Warrington Street,
Vasquez said, he heard a sudden rapid succession of gunshots.
As both men ducked, Vasquez testified, he looked to his left
and saw Rodriguez, motionless and bleeding. Rodriguez was
also unresponsive to Vasquez's questions. Thinking that
Rodriguez was dead, Vasquez-a fugitive from justice who had
previously been convicted of carrying a pistol without a
license-fled the vehicle and walked to a friend's house.
Vasquez said that he looked back only to find that Rodriguez
still had not emerged from the stopped car. Vasquez claimed
that he never saw who had fired at them and killed Rodriguez.
evidence was introduced, and it lent further credence to
Vasquez's recounting of the shooting. Detective Douglas
Allin of the Providence Police Department's Bureau of
Criminal Identification testified that he recovered six
cartridge casings clustered closely together around the speed
hump on Warrington Street. Farther down the street, toward
Elmwood Avenue, Det. Allin discovered an expended projectile.
Also, the processing of Rodriguez's Subaru, which had
come to rest against a building, yielded three more
projectiles: one that was imbedded in the left rear bumper,
which had entered the vehicle just underneath the taillight
assembly; a second partial fragment that was lodged in the
driver's side rear door frame, which had entered directly
above the molding; and a third in the glove compartment. That
round had fragmented as it entered immediately above the
glove compartment; copper jacketing from the projectile was
found on the floor of the front passenger seat area.
Detective Allin then proceeded to place a ballistic rod in
the hole where the projectile entered above the glove
compartment to test the trajectory from which it had been
fired. He determined that the bullet had traveled through the
open driver's window at an acute angle and passed through
the passenger cabin before penetrating the dashboard and
coming to rest in the glove compartment. Notably, Assistant
Medical Examiner Priya Banerjee, M.D., testified that the
bullet that killed Rodriguez entered the back of his neck and
exited through his left eye orbit.
A'Vant testified that he was tasked with investigating
who was responsible for the shooting of Rodriguez. After
being informed of the suspect vehicle's registration, as
relayed by a witness who saw the minivan fleeing from the
scene, Det. A'Vant learned that the vehicle was
registered to defendant's mother. Police officers
responded to her address-where defendant also resided-to set
up surveillance. There, they arrested defendant's
brother, Johan Blandino, on a charge of driving with a
suspended license. Johan, who was on bail for a pending
firearm possession charge, was brought to the police station
and interviewed by Det. A'Vant. The next day, Johan
indicated that he had additional information to share with
Det. A'Vant; he later informed the detective about the
location of the murder weapon. In a bush in front of the home
of defendant's neighbor, Det. A'Vant uncovered a
.40-caliber Smith & Wesson and an accompanying
magazine. While in the vicinity, Det. ...