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State v. Guerrero

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

April 23, 2019

State
v.
Francisco Guerrero.

          Providence County Superior Court (P2/13-2025A) Associate Justice William E. Carnes, Jr.

          For State: Lauren S. Zurier Department of Attorney General

          For Defendant: George J. West, Esq.

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

          OPINION

          WILLIAM P. ROBINSON JUSTICE

         On May 1, 2017, the defendant, Francisco Guerrero, petitioned this Court for the issuance of a writ of certiorari to allow him to appeal a December 1, 2015 judgment of conviction on criminal charges relating to an altercation that occurred in September of 2012. (A jury had found him guilty on June 29, 2015, and the trial justice thereafter denied his motion for a new trial.) On May 18, 2017, we granted the petition for a writ of certiorari.

         Before this Court, defendant contends that the trial justice overlooked and misconceived material evidence and was otherwise clearly wrong in denying his motion for a new trial, asserting that the state did not meet its burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that he did not act in self-defense.

         This case came before the Supreme Court pursuant to an order directing the parties to appear and show cause why the issues raised in this case should not be summarily decided. After a close review of the record and careful consideration of the parties' arguments (both written and oral), we are satisfied that cause has not been shown and that this case may be decided at this time.

         For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.

         I Facts and Travel

         On the afternoon of September 1, 2012, there was an altercation between two taxi drivers, defendant and one Abdoylaye Diop, outside the Providence Amtrak station.[1] Following the altercation, Mr. Diop was taken from the scene and admitted to Rhode Island Hospital for the treatment of injuries which he sustained during the altercation.

         On July 11, 2013, the state filed a criminal information, charging Mr. Guerrero with: (1) assault with a dangerous weapon, to wit, a knife, in violation of G.L. 1956 § 11-5-2; (2) assault and battery resulting in serious bodily injury, in violation of § 11-5-2; and (3) wearing or carrying concealed on his person a knife having a blade of more than three inches in length, in violation of G.L. 1956 § 11-47-42.

         The defendant was tried before a jury in Providence County Superior Court on June 24, 25, 26, and 29, 2015. We relate below the salient aspects of what transpired at that trial.

         A

         The Testimony at Trial

         1. The Testimony of Abdoylaye Diop

         Mr. Diop testified that, on September 1, 2012, in the course of his employment as a taxi driver, he went to the Amtrak station in order to pick up a fare. He stated that he parked his taxi in the line of taxis and then went to join two of his taxi driver friends who were sitting on a nearby cement wall.

         Mr. Diop further testified that defendant, with whom Mr. Diop stated he had some familiarity, was also in the taxi line at the Amtrak station that day.[2] Mr. Diop described defendant as being shorter and older than he. Mr. Diop stated that, on the day in question, after he had been sitting on the wall for "like, one to two minute[s]," defendant, who was standing beside his own taxi, pointed toward Mr. Diop and said: "You. Hey. Why are you looking at me?" Mr. Diop testified that the three men on the wall asked defendant to whom he was speaking and that defendant pointed at Mr. Diop and said: "You. You know who I'm talking to. You. Why are you looking at me? You know I don't like you." Mr. Diop testified that he responded to defendant: "Do you own my eyes? I can look wherever I want to look." He testified that he then rose from the cement wall and that he and defendant walked toward each other while he repeatedly asked defendant: "Do you own my eyes?"

         Mr. Diop further testified that, when the two men had closed the distance between them, he pushed defendant with both hands, employing sufficient force that defendant "moved a little bit." Mr. Diop stated that, at some point during that altercation, defendant stabbed him in the stomach with a knife. Mr. Diop further testified that, after defendant had stabbed him in the stomach, defendant also stabbed him in his left leg. According to Mr. Diop, defendant stabbed him in the leg ...


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