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State v. Torrez

210 P.3d 228 (2009)

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State v. Torrez

New Mexico Supreme Court

210 P.3d 228 (2009)

Facts

At a house party, two men threatened to kill Orlando Torrez (defendant) unless he left. As Torrez drove away, the men fired two gunshots at the car. Torrez got firearms and drove back to the party, allegedly because the men knew where he lived, and he feared for his safety if he did nothing. Back at the party house, Torrez was attacked from behind, and he ran back to his car. Gunshots were fired at him from the house, and Torrez shot back toward the house. During the shooting, Danica Concha was hit by a bullet and died. It was not clear whose bullet hit Concha. Torrez was charged with murder and injuring someone by shooting at an occupied building. At trial, the primary issue was whether Torrez was acting in self-defense when he shot at the house. Over objections from Torrez, Detective Robert Martinez testified as an expert witness on gang culture. Martinez had worked as a police officer with gang units for 13 years, had written a police manual on gangs, and routinely instructed law enforcement about gang culture and investigation. Martinez offered two opinions: (1) a tattoo on Torrez was one used to identify members of a gang called BST and (2) in gang culture, threatening a gang member was considered disrespectful and required some form of retaliation. Martinez’s first opinion showed that Torrez might have been in BST at one point. However, there was no evidence that Torrez was in any gang at the time of the shooting. Martinez’s second opinion undermined Torrez’s claim that he was acting in self-defense. Torrez was convicted and appealed. On appeal, Torrez argued that Martinez’s testimony should have been excluded.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Chávez, C.J.)

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