Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Cormier v. State

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

December 19, 2017


         On Appeal from the 339th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 1441115

          Panel consists of Justices Jennings, Bland, and Brown.


          Jane Bland Justice.

         In 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).

         On 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.


         Cormier 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.

         Both 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.

         In 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 events.

         Nicholas 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.

         Cormier 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.

         The 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 home.

         A few 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 cameras.

         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.

         That 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.

         Three 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.

         At 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 ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.