Appeal from the 178th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Cause No. 1435566.
consists of Justices Christopher, Spain, and Poissant.
raises two issues in this appeal from her conviction for
murder. In the first issue, she argues that she is entitled
to an acquittal because the evidence is legally insufficient
to support the conviction. And in the second issue, she
argues that, even if the evidence were sufficient to support
the conviction, she is entitled to a new trial because the
jury engaged in misconduct by conducting experiments during
deliberations. For reasons explained more fully below, we
overrule both of these issues and affirm the trial
Discovery of the Body.
complainant in this case is Jaime Melgar, who was
appellant's husband of thirty-two years. At the time of
his death, Jaime and appellant were empty-nesters, living in
a suburban home with just four small dogs.
had planned to host a holiday dinner for his brother and his
brother's family. When these relatives arrived at
Jaime's home on the scheduled date of the dinner, the
front door was locked and no one was answering. Jaime's
brother checked the backdoor, but it was also locked and
nothing could be heard from the inside. The brother then went
to the attached two-car garage, where the garage door on the
right-hand side had been left open. Inside the garage, the
brother found a closed but unlocked door leading into the
kitchen. The brother went through that interior door,
unlocked the front door for his family, and then heard cries
for help coming from within the home.
brother followed the cries to the en suite master bathroom,
where he found a chair wedged under the handle of a closet
door. The brother removed the chair, opened the closet, and
found appellant lying on the floor. She was wearing a
bathrobe, her ankles were bound, and her wrists were tied
behind her back. The brother was unable to remove the ties
with his bare hands, but at appellant's direction, he
retrieved scissors from the bathroom and cut through the
bindings, which had been made from a scarf and other stretchy
brother was freeing appellant, his family discovered Jaime in
the closet of the master bedroom. His body was naked and
cold. He had a knotted rope loosely wrapped around his chest,
and telephone cords tied around his ankles. He was also
covered in blood, with gash marks across his neck and torso.
and EMS were dispatched to the scene, having been told that
one person was dead and another person was injured following
a home invasion or burglary. But when the first responders
arrived, they did not encounter the traditional hallmarks of
a home invasion or burglary. There were no signs of forced
entry. All of the doors and windows were intact. Also, no
personal property appeared to be missing. Valuables were
untouched and in plain view, and dresser drawers were only
slightly opened, their contents undisturbed.
deputy constable found appellant in the bathroom crying, but
because she did not have any tears, the constable suspected
that appellant may have been acting. When the constable asked
appellant what had happened, appellant responded that the
last thing she remembered was that she was taking a bath with
Jaime and that Jaime had gotten out of the tub to check on
the dogs because they were barking. Appellant added that she
commonly has blackouts and seizures, and that she had no
memory of the previous night.
was examined by a paramedic at the scene, who found no
injuries on appellant's face, head, neck, or wrists.
Appellant still complained of a bump on her head, but she
declined to be transported to the hospital to receive
additional medical attention. She agreed to go to police
headquarters instead and to give a recorded statement to
told investigators that she and Jaime had gone out for dinner
the night before to celebrate their anniversary, and that
they had stopped at a store on their way home to pick up some
drinks. Upon arriving home, they parked their car inside the
garage on the left-hand side. According to appellant, the
garage door on the right-hand side must have been closed,
otherwise she would have noticed it.
said that she went inside, started the Jacuzzi tub, and mixed
some drinks for herself and Jaime. Then they got into the
tub, where they stayed for a long time (some two hours, she
estimated) talking about their daughter and their plans for
said that they heard their dogs barking outside at some
point, and that Jaime got out of the tub to call the dogs
back inside. Appellant claimed that she remained in the tub
for the next fifteen minutes, and when Jaime failed to
return, she went to her closet to put on some clothes and
lotion. She said that she remembered nothing after that point
until she woke up several hours later.
believed that she must have had a seizure during a home
invasion because she did not remember hearing any screams or
struggles or sounds of any kind. She explained that she had
been experiencing frequent seizures lately, at least once a
month, with auras happening "all the time." She
claimed that her last seizure had occurred just a month
investigators were troubled by appellant's demeanor. She
was slow to answer their questions, and her answers tended to
be evasive. She was covering her face and avoiding eye
contact. And she was not displaying much emotion. Even when
she sounded as though she were crying, she did not have any
investigators told appellant point blank that her story was
not adding up. They asked her to explain why she had bruising
on both of her upper arms. Appellant offered several
explanations. She said that she is always bruised because she
suffers from a chronic illness and takes many medications.
She also said that she falls sometimes and bruises easily.
She added that Jaime was not a violent man and that he never
abused her. She suggested that some of the bruising may have
been caused earlier that night when she left the tub to use
the toilet and Jaime grabbed her arm to prevent her from
investigators also asked appellant for her best understanding
of how Jaime had died. Appellant said that Jaime did not have
any known enemies, but she briefly offered some theories. She
mentioned that Jaime had been driving slowly the night before
and that he had likely angered a tailgater as they were
heading home from the store. But appellant ultimately
dismissed the tailgater as a possible suspect, saying that
the tailgater had turned one way at an intersection, whereas
she and Jaime had turned the opposite way.
also mentioned that she and Jaime owned rental properties and
that there was a history of conflict with one of their
tenants. But appellant dismissed the tenant as a suspect too,
saying that she did ...