Court of Appeals of Texas, First District, Houston
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
On Appeal from the 23rd District Court, Brazoria County, Texas. Trial Court Case No. 66103.
For APPELLANT: Perry R. Stevens, Angleton, TX.
For STATE: Jeri Yenne, District Attorney - Brazoria County, Angleton, TX; Trey D. Picard, Assistant District Attorney, Brazoria County, Angleton, TX.
Panel consists of Keyes, Higley, and Massengale
Evelyn V. Keyes Justice.
A jury convicted appellant, Travis Wade Coleman, Jr., of the offense of murder and assessed punishment at thirty-three years' confinement. In his sole issue on appeal, appellant contends that the trial court erroneously admitted hearsay statements of his co-defendant through the testimony of three third-party witnesses.
On January 18, 2011, Brazoria County Sheriff's Office Investigator D. Collins was dispatched to investigate a deadly conduct report that appellant had called in outside of his family's residence in Alvin. Appellant lived at this address with his mother, Amy Coleman, one of his younger brothers, Aaron Coleman, an unrelated man, Jimmy Smith, and Amy's husband and appellant's stepfather, Ray Sambrano, the complainant. Investigator Collins spoke with appellant, who completed and signed a written statement. In this statement, appellant related that, while he was taking his dogs outside, a " 32-v North Star Cadillac" pulled up with three men inside. The driver asked appellant if Sambrano was at home. After appellant responded that Sambrano was not, the driver told appellant to tell Sambrano that if the men see him, they're " going to kill him." The man sitting in the back seat of the car pulled out a shotgun and fired it into the air before the men drove off. Appellant gave a rough description of the men and the car, and he later met with a sketch artist. Investigator Collins was never able to locate either the car or the men who allegedly threatened Sambrano, and, when he asked appellant's neighbors about this incident, no one told him that they had heard a shotgun blast.
The next day, January 19, 2011, appellant called the Brazoria County Sheriff's Office around 4:15 p.m. and reported that a shooting had occurred at his residence. When Investigator Collins arrived around 5:00 p.m., appellant, his younger brother, Jared Coleman, and his grandmother, Maybelle Martinez, were present at the residence. The responding officers led Investigator Collins to the master bedroom, where he saw Sambrano lying across the bed with his feet hanging off the left side of the bed. Sambrano had a shotgun wound to his face, which was immediately apparent, as well as a shotgun wound to the left side of his chest, which became apparent only when officers moved the surrounding blankets. Investigator Collins testified that the officers on the scene did not mention the second gunshot wound to anyone not investigating the murder. There were no signs of a struggle in the bedroom, and no guns were present in the room. Officers later determined that the gunshot wounds were caused by a 20-gauge shotgun.
Dr. Nobby Mambo, a medical examiner for Galveston County, testified that he performed the autopsy on Sambrano. Dr. Mambo testified that the level of rigor mortis and lividity present in the body indicated a time of death approximately eight to ten hours before Investigator Collins viewed and documented the state of the body at 5:00 p.m. on January 19, 2011.
Investigator Collins spoke with appellant immediately after the discovery of Sambrano's body. Appellant indicated that Sambrano was alive at some point during the morning, because appellant spoke with him and asked to use his shower. Appellant told Investigator Collins that he rode his bicycle to Martinez's house, where Jared was living, around
10:00 a.m. and remained there until 3:00 p.m., when he needed to leave for a 3:30 appointment. After this appointment, appellant, Jared, and Martinez returned to appellant's residence, where appellant and Jared found Sambrano dead.
Appellant spoke with Investigator Collins again on January 20, 2011, after first meeting with the sketch artist to complete sketches of the men involved in the alleged deadly conduct incident. Investigator Collins asked appellant to recount his activities on January 18, 2011, but appellant did not mention anything about the deadly conduct incident. Investigator Collins found that omission to be strange, but he still considered the individuals who had allegedly driven by the residence and threatened Sambrano to be the main suspects in the murder, not appellant. Investigator Collins interviewed appellant again a week later, and as a result of several inconsistencies throughout appellant's different statements, Collins considered him to be a suspect. Appellant acknowledged in this interview that he hated Sambrano. Investigator Collins did not arrest appellant at the time of the second interview.
In September 2011, Jared Coleman went to live briefly with the family of his friend Corey Kerchner. While there, he confessed to Kerchner's mother, Alice Yeargan, that he and appellant shot Sambrano. Yeargan took Jared to talk to the police the next day.
Also in September 2011, Investigator Collins contacted Russell Coleman, appellant's uncle, who lived in the same neighborhood. Russell owned, among other guns, a 20-gauge shotgun, which he surrendered to the police. Russell also turned over another gun, a deer rifle, which he had unexpectedly found in a green gun case that he usually used to store the shotgun. The trial court admitted both of these guns and the gun case into evidence.
Russell Coleman testified and identified State's Exhibit 15 as his shotgun. He testified that he usually kept that shotgun in a green case in his closet and that appellant knew where he stored that gun. Sometime in 2011, after Sambrano's murder, Russell tried to retrieve his shotgun from the case, but he instead discovered a deer rifle in its place. Russell did not expect to see that rifle, and he called his brother, appellant's father, to ask if his sons had taken the shotgun. Russell believed that appellant might have taken it because he had at one time asked Russell if he could borrow it to go hunting, and Russell told him that he could not borrow it. Several days after Russell called his brother, his brother brought the shotgun back to him. Russell later gave the shotgun and the shotgun case, with the rifle inside of it, to the police.
Appellant's father, Travis Coleman Sr., testified that he had a conversation with Russell about his missing shotgun. Approximately one month after the murder, and after he had spoken to Russell, Travis drove appellant and appellant's older brother, Brandon, over to appellant's residence. Appellant went to the backyard for several minutes and then returned with " the shotgun in his boot, in his pants." Appellant got back in the car and said, " [H]ere is Uncle Russell's gun." Travis identified State's Exhibit 15 as the shotgun he saw down appellant's pants leg and as Russell's shotgun.
Investigator Collins also testified that after appellant was indicted, appellant had a conversation with his mother while he was in jail, and this conversation was recorded. During this conversation, appellant told his mother that he would run to Mexico, and he also ...