Appeal from the 339th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Case No. 1441115
consists of Justices Jennings, Bland, and Brown.
December 2014, Kimberly Nicole Cormier was charged with
capital murder arising out of her participation in an
aggravated robbery that resulted in the Jose Bonilla's
death. A jury found her guilty of the offense as charged.
See Tex. Penal Code §§ 19.02, 19.03. The
State did not seek the death penalty, and thus the trial
court automatically assessed punishment at life imprisonment
without the possibility of parole. See Tex. Penal
Code § 12.31(a)(2).
appeal, Cormier contends that (1) the trial court erred in
refusing to instruct the jury on the definition of
"imminent" as it applies to the affirmative defense
of duress; and (2) Section 12.31(a)(2) of the Texas Penal
Code, which requires a punishment of life without parole for
a defendant 18 years of age or older found guilty of a
capital offense, is constitutionally infirm on its face and
as applied to Cormier because it violates her right to be
free from cruel or unusual punishment guaranteed by Article
I, Section 13, of the Texas Constitution as well as her right
to be free from cruel and unusual punishment guaranteed by
the Eighth Amendment of the federal Constitution. We affirm.
met James Nicholas in February 2014. The two began a romantic
relationship. Cormier described Nicholas as kind and
attentive at first, but as time went on, he became
controlling and abusive.
Cormier and Nicholas had criminal histories. Nicholas was on
parole, having recently been released from prison after being
incarcerated for felony delivery of cocaine and unlawful
possession of a firearm. Cormier had served six months for
forging a prescription in 2006 and later served four years
for obtaining drugs by fraud in 2010. She was using
prescription pain medication when she met Nicholas.
September 2014, Nicholas began a week-long crime spree that
included the murders of Johnny Holcombe, Catherine Gingrich,
Marty Carol, and Jose Bonilla, and the aggravated robbery of
a cell-phone store. Cormier accompanied Nicholas during these
began to worry that law-enforcement officials would identify
his car in connection with the murders and the store robbery.
He and Cormier visited several used-car lots to attempt to
steal a car, but the opportunity to take one did not arise.
Following these unsuccessful efforts, their conversation
turned to Bonilla. Bonilla was an acquaintance of Cormier.
Bonilla managed a business that bought, sold, and repaired
cars. He ran the business out of his home and had outfitted
the home with surveillance cameras for security purposes. The
cameras recorded video, but not audio.
and Nicholas visited Bonilla the evening of September 7th.
They inspected the cars that Bonilla had available and
expressed an interest in buying one of them. They made
arrangements to return in the morning.
surveillance video recording from that morning shows Cormier
greeting Bonilla. She is fluent in Spanish and appeared to
take the lead in negotiations. Nicholas took one of
Bonilla's cars on a test drive around the neighborhood
while Bonilla and Cormier conversed outside of Bonilla's
minutes later, Nicholas returned from the test drive and the
three went inside Bonilla's home. While Cormier and
Bonilla were discussing paperwork in Bonilla's kitchen,
Nicholas pulled a gun from the back of his waistband and put
it to Bonilla's head. Nicholas handed Cormier some
plastic zip-ties and, still holding the gun to Bonilla's
head, directed Bonilla into the living room. Nicholas had
Bonilla sit on the sofa while Cormier spoke to him. The
surveillance video shows Cormier speaking to Bonilla in an
aggressive manner. After a few minutes, Nicholas lunged
toward the sofa, picked up a throw pillow, held it to the
side of Bonilla's head, and placed the gun on the other
side of the pillow. Bonilla removed an object from his pocket
and gave it to Nicholas. Nicholas and Cormier then forced
Bonilla into his bedroom, which was not within view of the
surveillance video shows Cormier and Nicholas leaving the
bedroom a few minutes later. Nicholas returned the throw
pillow to the sofa. Cormier looked out of the front-door
peephole while she covered her hand with the bottom edge of
her tee shirt and wiped off the doorknob. They left the house
and drove away in Bonilla's car.
afternoon, Bonilla's roommate returned home from work to
find Bonilla dead in his bedroom. He had a single gunshot
wound on the right side of his head. His ankles and feet were
tied together with zip ties. A spent shell casing was on the
floor near his feet.
days after Bonilla's murder, the police found Nicholas
and Cormier leaving Cormier's neighborhood in
Bonilla's car. Nicholas, who was driving, tried to flee
from the police and shot at the police vehicle. Before he
could be arrested, he shot Cormier on her left side and shot
himself in the head. An officer ordered Cormier out of the
car and onto the ground. Nicholas died at the scene. Cormier
survived her injuries.
trial, Cormier acknowledged that she was present at the
murders of Holcombe, Gingrich, Carol, and Bonilla, and that
she had driven the get-away car from the cell-phone store
where Nicholas had committed aggravated robbery. She claimed,
however, that she acted in fear for her life. She testified
that Nicholas had ...