State v. Morris, 2015 Ariz. App. LEXIS 103 (AZ Ct. App. 2015)
Court of Appeals of Arizona, Division One
June 25, 2015, Filed
No. 1 CA-CR 14-0240
2015 Ariz. App. LEXIS 103 | 2015 WL 3932371
STATE OF ARIZONA, Appellee, v. MATTHEW ALAN MORRIS, Appellant.
For Appellee: Colby Mills, Arizona Attorney General’s Office, Phoenix.
For Appellant: Daniel J. DeRienzo, Law Office of Daniel DeRienzo, PLLC, Prescott Valley.
Judge Peter B. Swann delivered the decision of the court, in which Presiding Judge Randall M. Howe and Judge Andrew W. Gould joined.
Peter B. Swann
Matthew Alan Morris appeals from his conviction and sentence for aggravated assault. Morris contends that the trial court erred when it denied his motion for a judgment of acquittal, and that it committed fundamental error when it failed to give certain justification instructions to the jury. For the reasons that follow, we affirm Morris’s conviction and sentence.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Morris was convicted of aggravated assault for shooting his roommate in the shoulder during a dispute at their home. On the evening of the incident, the victim had been out watching football and drinking with his girlfriend and his other roommate. When the three returned to the victim’s house, Morris was already there. The victim and Morris initially had a brief conversation during which Morris expressed his frustration about some furniture being placed in the garage. Then Morris went to his bedroom.
The victim testified that he decided he needed to talk to Morris about the utilities, to which Morris was not contributing. When the victim started talking to Morris, Morris was in his bedroom with the door closed. The discussion began to escalate and both the victim and Morris began using profanity. Then the victim testified that he heard Morris’s pistol “slide back and rack a round.”
The victim, who had been in the Army, testified that he had shown Morris self-defense moves that he had seen on a television show called Ultimate Fighting Championships, including how to break bones. Morris testified that the victim had tried to fight with him on another occasion. Morris also testified that he was afraid of the victim because the victim had demonstrated his ability to fight.
After he heard the pistol, the victim said, “Are you really going to pull a gun on me?” and Morris began to open his bedroom door. Morris was standing inside of his bedroom with the gun pointed at the victim, and the victim tried to disarm him. The victim stepped into the bedroom and reached for Morris’s hands in an attempt to bend Morris’s wrist away from him. Then the gun fired and a bullet hit the victim in the left shoulder.
Morris then went out to his car to get his cell phone and call 9-1-1. At the hospital, the bullet was extracted from the victim’s back between his left shoulder and his neck.
At the close of the state’s case, Morris moved for a judgment of acquittal under Ariz. R. Crim. P. 20. He argued that the victim caused the gun to go off by grabbing it, and that Morris was simply trying to protect himself from the victim. According to Morris, the victim was the aggressor in this situation, and did not have permission to enter his bedroom. The court denied the motion, reasoning that although it was unclear whether the victim actually touched the gun before it went off, that uncertainty went to the jury’s decision whether Morris had a culpable mental state. The court further noted that a reasonable jury could find that Morris was aware of the substantial and unjustifiable risk of his conduct and disregarded that risk.
The court instructed the jury on the justification of self-defense under A.R.S. §§ 13-404 and -405 and in accordance with Revised Arizona Jury Instructions (“RAJI”) Statutory Criminal 4.04 (justification for self-defense). The jury found Morris guilty of aggravated assault and he was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. Morris timely appeals.
Morris raises three arguments on appeal. First, he argues that the trial court erred when it denied his motion for a judgment of acquittal under Ariz. R. Crim. P. 20. Next, Morris argues that the court committed fundamental error when it failed to give the jury an instruction on the “defense of a residential structure” justification defense under A.R.S. §§ 13-418 and -419. Finally, Morris argues that the court committed fundamental error when it failed to give the jury an instruction on the “defensive display of a firearm” justification defense under A.R.S. § 13-421. We address each argument in turn.
I. THE TRIAL COURT DID NOT ERR WHEN IT DENIED MORRIS’S RULE 20 MOTION.
Morris argues that the trial court erred when it denied his motion for a judgment of acquittal pursuant to Ariz. R. Crim. P. 20. More specifically, he argues that there was no substantial evidence to prove that he actually caused the victim’s injury because the victim’s “trial testimony did not actually controvert [Morris]’s testimony as to causation, since [the victim] could not remember whether he touched the gun or not.”
Rule 20(a) provides that, “On motion of a defendant or on its own initiative, the court shall enter a judgment of acquittal of one or more offenses charged in an indictment, information or complaint after the evidence on either side is closed, if there is no substantial evidence to warrant a conviction.”
We review de novo a trial court’s ruling on a Rule 20 motion. State v. Boyston, 231 Ariz. 539, 551, ¶ 59, 298 P.3d 887 (2013). “[T]he relevant question is whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.” State v. West, 226 Ariz. 559, 562, ¶ 16, 250 P.3d 1188 (2011) (citation omitted). And “[w]hen reasonable minds may differ on inferences drawn from the facts, the case must be submitted to the jury, and the trial judge has no discretion to enter a judgment of acquittal.” Id. at 563, ¶ 18 (citation omitted).
A.R.S. §§ 13-1203 and -1204 provide that a person commits aggravated assault by “[i]ntentionally, knowingly or recklessly causing any physical injury to another person” using “a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.”
At trial, evidence was presented that Morris was in his bedroom during a conversation that Morris described as “aggressive.” Morris took his gun out of its case and “racked it.” The victim heard the gun being loaded and Morris opened his bedroom door. Morris had his finger on the trigger when the victim reached out for the gun to try to take it away from Morris, and the victim may or may not have had his hands on the gun as well. Then the gun went off and a bullet struck the victim in the left shoulder.
Considering these facts, there was substantial evidence from which a reasonable trier of fact could conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Morris intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly shot the victim with a gun. Therefore, the trial court did not err and had no discretion to enter a judgment of acquittal.
II. THE TRIAL COURT DID NOT ERR WHEN IT FAILED TO GIVE ADDITIONAL JUSTIFICATION INSTRUCTIONS TO THE JURY.
A. Morris Was Not Entitled to an Instruction on the Justification for Defense of a Residential Structure Under A.R.S. §§ 13-418 and -419.
Morris argues that the court committed fundamental error when it failed to instruct the jury on various “justification statutes.” He asserts that his bedroom was “clearly and obviously a residential structure,” and therefore, the court should have given an instruction on the justification for defense of a residential structure under A.R.S. §§ 13-418 and -419.
Because Morris did not request any additional jury instructions at trial or object to the proposed jury instructions, we review for fundamental error. State v. Karr, 221 Ariz. 319, 321, ¶ 10, 212 P.3d 11 (App. 2008). Fundamental error involves “error going to the foundation of the case, error that takes from the defendant a right essential to his defense, and error of such magnitude that the defendant could not possibly have received a fair trial.” State v. Henderson, 210 Ariz. 561, 567, ¶ 19, 115 P.3d 601 (2005) (citation omitted). “To prevail under this standard of review, a defendant must establish both that fundamental error exists and that the error in his case caused him prejudice.” Id. at ¶ 20.
A.R.S. § 13-418(A) provides that “a person is justified in . . . using physical force or deadly physical force against another person if the person reasonably believes himself or another person to be in imminent peril of death or serious physical injury and the person against whom the physical force or deadly physical force is threatened or used . . . had unlawfully or forcefully entered[ ] a residential structure.”
Additionally, A.R.S. § 13-419(A) provides that “[a] person is presumed to reasonably believe that the threat or use of physical force or deadly force is immediately necessary . . . if the person knows . . . that the person against whom physical force or deadly force is threatened or used is unlawfully or forcefully entering . . . the person’s residential structure.” And subsection B provides that “a person who is unlawfully . . . entering . . . a residential structure . . . is presumed to pose an imminent threat of unlawful deadly harm to any person who is in the residential structure.”
Residential structure is defined as “any structure, movable or immovable, permanent or temporary, that is adapted for both human residence and lodging whether occupied or not.” A.R.S. § 13-1501(11). And structure is defined as “any . . . place with sides and a floor that is separately securable from any other structure attached to it and that is used for lodging, business, transportation, recreation or storage.” A.R.S. § 13-1501(12).
Morris argues that because his bedroom had sides, a floor, and a lock on the door — making it separately securable from the rest of the house — his bedroom was “clearly and obviously a residential structure.” We disagree. When defining a residential structure for burglary purposes, this court analyzed the same statutory definitions, stating:
[D]oes a burglar who breaks into the basement of [a] residential home commit a burglary of a non-residential structure? Likewise, does a burglar who enters a residential home and breaks into two locked bedrooms (structures used for lodging) commit three burglaries of a residential structure?
We think not. Rather, . . . we are of the opinion that the word “residence” as used in [A.R.S. § 13-1501] embraces two concepts: (1) the word is in contradiction to a general commercial use or a use unassociated with a home; and (2) the word “residence” includes everything connected with the residential structure to make it more suitable, comfortable or enjoyable for human occupancy.
State v. Gardella, 156 Ariz. 340, 341-42, 751 P.2d 1000 (App. 1988) (internal citation omitted).
Separate rooms within an individual home are not separate residential structures and treating them as such would lead to a host of absurd results. If we were to accept Morris’s assertion that every bedroom within a home is a separate residential structure, defendants would be exposed to multiple convictions for the same offense simply by stepping into separate rooms of the same home. Such a construct could also make individual residents of a home criminally liable for burglary merely by entering another’s bedroom and taking small items.
A.R.S. § 13-419(C)(1) provides that the presumptions in subsectionsA and B do not apply if “[t]he person against whom physical force or deadly physical force was . . . used has the right to be in or is a lawful resident of the residential structure . . ., including a[ ] . . . lessee . . . .” Because the term “residential structure” applies to the entire house rather than each individual bedroom, and the victim was a lawful resident of the house, the presumptions in A.R.S. § 13-419 do not apply. Therefore, the trial court did not commit fundamental error when it failed to give the jury an instruction on the justification for defense of a residential structure.
B. Morris Was Not Entitled to an Instruction on the Justification for Defensive Display of a Firearm Under A.R.S. § 13-421.
Finally, Morris argues that there was sufficient evidence presented for the court to instruct the jury on the justification for defensive display of a firearm under A.R.S. § 13-421. Once again, because Morris did not request any additional jury instructions at trial or object to the proposed jury instructions, we review for fundamental error. See supra Section II.A.
A.R.S. § 13-421(A) provides that “[t]he defensive display of a firearm by a person against another is justified when and to the extent a reasonable person would believe that physical force is immediately necessary to protect himself against the use or attempted use of unlawful physical force or deadly physical force.” However, § 13-421(B)(2) provides that subsection A does not apply to a person who “[u]ses a firearm during the commission of a serious offense as defined in § 13-706.” And a serious offense under § 13-706(F)(1)(d) includes “[a]ggravated assault resulting in serious physical injury or involving the discharge, use, or threatening exhibition of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.”
Morris was charged with aggravated assault involving the discharge of a deadly weapon, and the defensive display of a firearm defense did not apply. The trial court did not commit fundamental error when it failed to give this instruction.
For the foregoing reasons, we affirm Morris’s conviction and sentence.