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Leal v. State

Court of Appeals of Texas, Thirteenth District, Corpus Christi-Edinburg

April 20, 2017

FRANCISCO JAVIER LEAL, Appellant,
v.
THE STATE OF TEXAS, Appellee.

         On appeal from the 332nd District Court of Hidalgo County, Texas.

          Before Justices Contreras, Benavides, and Longoria

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          NORA L. LONGORIA Justice

         Appellant Francisco Javier Leal was convicted of robbery, see Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 29.02 (West, Westlaw through 2015 R.S.), and aggravated assault. See id. § 22.02 (West, Westlaw through 2015 R.S.). On appeal, Leal asserts that the evidence was legally insufficient to support the jury's verdict on the offense of aggravated assault because the jury specifically found that he did not use a deadly weapon. We affirm.

         I. Background

         Crystal Arambula testified that on March 31, 2010, she was on her way to McAllen High School. Because she lacked a parking permit, she parked on a public street across from the school building. Upon exiting her vehicle, Leal confronted her and demanded that she give him her keys. A struggle over the keys ensued, in which Arambula's hand was cut. Her finger was so swollen from the altercation that the ring she was wearing would later have to be cut off. While Leal and Arambula were grappling for control of the keys, Ernestina Chapa drove by and noticed the two engaging each other. Chapa testified that she began honking her horn because Arambula appeared very scared.

         After Chapa began honking, Leal let go of Arambula and headed straight for Chapa. According to Chapa, Leal opened her driver-side door and tried to force her from the vehicle. Because she was pregnant at the time, Leal had difficulty removing her from the vehicle. Regardless, he continued to pull at her shirt and her hair, and then he pulled out a knife. Chapa testified that the knife blade was approximately four inches long.

         During the tussle with Chapa, Erick Gonzalez, another student of McAllen High School and a member of the school's ROTC program, also passed by. Gonzalez testified that he commanded Leal to leave Chapa alone. Leal lunged at Gonzalez with the knife still in his hand but then immediately retreated and rode away on his bike. Leal was taken into custody more than three years later by federal authorities upon crossing back into the United States from Mexico.

         Leal was charged by indictment with two counts of aggravated robbery and one count of robbery. More specifically, the State alleged that Leal committed aggravated robbery against Gonzalez and Chapa (counts one and two, respectively). The State also alleged that Leal committed robbery against Arambula, causing bodily injury (count three). The jury found Leal not guilty on count one, guilty of the lesser included offense of aggravated assault on count two, and guilty of the offense of robbery on count three. However, special issue number one in the jury charge asked about Leal's use of a deadly weapon; the jury found that he did not use a deadly weapon. The jury sentenced Leal to ten years' imprisonment for aggravated assault and eight years' imprisonment for robbery, both sentences to run concurrently. This appeal followed.[1]

         II. Legal Sufficiency

         In his sole issue on appeal, Leal argues that the evidence is legally insufficient to support his conviction for the lesser-included offense of aggravated assault.

         A. Standard of Review and Applicable Law

         In order to determine if the evidence is legally sufficient in a criminal case, the appellate court reviews all of the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict and determines whether any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. See Brooks v. State, 323 S.W.3d 893, 905 (Tex. Crim. App. 2010) (plurality op.) (citing Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319 (1979)). We give great deference to the trier of fact and assume the factfinder resolved all conflicts in the evidence in favor of the verdict. Laster v. State, 275 S.W.3d 512, 517 (Tex. Crim. App. 2009). We will uphold the verdict unless the factfinder "must have had reasonable doubt as to any essential element." Laster, 275 S.W.3d at 517.

         Sufficiency is measured by the elements of the offense as defined by a hypothetically correct jury charge. Malik v. State, 953 S.W.2d 234, 240 (Tex. Crim. App. 1997). Such a charge in this case would state that a person commits the offense of assault if the person intentionally or knowingly threatens another with imminent bodily injury; or if the person intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another. See Tex. Penal Code Ann. ยง 22.01(a)(1), (2) (West, Westlaw through 2015 R.S.). Furthermore, it would state that a person commits ...


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