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State v. Arciliares

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

November 5, 2018

State
v.
Victor Arciliares.

          Providence County (P1/10-3258AG) Superior Court Robert D. Krause Associate Justice

          For State: Aaron L. Weisman Department of Attorney General.

          For Defendant: Lara E. Montecalvo Office of the Public Defender.

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

          OPINION

          Gilbert V. Indeglia Associate Justice.

         After a 2012 trial in Providence County Superior Court, a jury found the defendant, Victor Arciliares (Arciliares or defendant), guilty of one count of second-degree murder and one count of discharging a firearm while committing a crime of violence.[1] The defendant timely appealed to this Court, but ultimately filed a motion to remand the matter to the Superior Court for a new trial in light of newly discovered evidence. This Court granted the defendant's unopposed motion. While on remand, the defendant filed supplemental memoranda contending that he was entitled to a new trial because the trial justice's jury instructions regarding involuntary manslaughter were improper in light of this Court's opinion in State v. Diaz, 46 A.3d 849 (R.I. 2012). The trial justice granted the defendant's motion for a new trial on that ground, and we granted the state's petition for a writ of certiorari seeking review of that decision. The state argues that the defendant's motion for a new trial based on the issue of the propriety of the trial justice's jury instructions was procedurally improper and that, even if the trial justice did not err in hearing the motion, he nevertheless erred in granting it because Diaz did not set forth a new rule of law and the defendant failed to preserve this issue at trial. For the reasons set forth herein, we quash the order of the Superior Court.

         I Facts and Travel

         On October 28, 2010, a grand jury indicted defendant on two counts of second-degree murder (counts 1 and 3), in violation of G.L. 1956 § 11-23-1;[2] one count of carrying a pistol without a license (count 2), in violation of G.L. 1956 § 11-47-8(a); and one count of discharging a firearm while committing a crime of violence (count 4), in violation of § 11-47-3.2(b)(3).[3] A jury found defendant guilty of counts 1 and 4. The trial justice denied defendant's motion for a new trial following the jury verdict, and he sentenced defendant to a term of forty-five years imprisonment on count 1 and a consecutive life sentence on count 4.

         On July 3, 2012, defendant timely appealed his convictions to this Court. Subsequently, on June 17, 2013, prior to filing his brief-in-chief, [4] defendant moved to remand the case to the Superior Court so that he might file a motion for new trial based on newly discovered evidence pursuant to Rule 33 of the Superior Court Rules of Criminal Procedure. The state did not object to this motion. This Court granted defendant's motion on September 16, 2013, remanding the case and holding the appeal in abeyance pending the disposition of defendant's Rule 33 motion. On April 15, 2014, [5] in Superior Court, defendant filed his motion for a new trial and corresponding memorandum in support of the motion, alleging that newly discovered evidence and violations under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), entitled him to a new trial. The state filed its objection to the motion for a new trial. Thereafter, defendant filed supplemental memoranda on August 4, 2015, December 22, 2015, and February 23, 2016. In his second and third supplemental memoranda, defendant proffered a new argument in support of his motion for a new trial, contending that the trial justice had erred in instructing the jury as to involuntary manslaughter. In support of his new position, defendant averred that Diaz created a new rule of law requiring that the trial justice's jury charge for involuntary manslaughter contain a reference to "criminal negligence." The defendant reasoned that, because the trial justice's jury instructions at defendant's trial lacked such language, and in fact contained nearly identical language to that used in the trial in Diaz, [6] he was entitled to a new trial.[7]

         On February 29, 2016, the trial justice granted defendant's motion for new trial on those grounds, and the state filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with this Court. On June 3, 2016, this Court granted the state's petition and issued the writ, instructing the parties "to address whether in this Court's decision in State v. Diaz * * * this Court announced a new rule of law in light of our holdings in the following cases: State v. Hallenbeck, 878 A.2d 992 (R.I. 2005); State v. Ortiz, 824 A.2d 473 (R.I. 2003); State v. Hockenhull, 525 A.2d 926 (R.I. 1987); and State v. McVay, 47 R.I. 292, 132 A. 436 (1926)."

         II Standard of Review

         "Our review of a case on certiorari is limited to an examination of the record to determine if an error of law has been committed." DeCurtis v. Visconti, Boren & Campbell, Ltd., 152 A.3d 413, 420-21 (R.I. 2017) (quoting State v. Poulin, 66 A.3d 419, 423 (R.I. 2013)). "We do not weigh the evidence on certiorari, but only conduct our review to examine questions of law raised in the petition." WMS Gaming, Inc. v. Sullivan, 6 A.3d 1104, 1111 (R.I. 2010) (quoting State v. Greenberg, 951 A.2d 481, 489 (R.I. 2008)). "Our review of questions of law is de novo." Id.

         III Discussion

         Although this Court granted the state's petition for a writ of certiorari with direction to the parties to address the issue of whether this Court's opinion in Diaz "announced a new rule of law in light of our holdings" in the cases listed above, we have determined that we need not reach that question. After consideration of the travel of this case, we conclude that the trial justice erred in granting defendant's motion for a new trial by exceeding the scope of this Court's remand ...


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