holding mistake of fact instruction not necessary in burglary case because "to convict [appellant] of that offense, the State was already required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that appellant entered the house, without the effective consent of the owners, with the intent to commit theft"Summary of this case from Blanco v. State
Opinion filed April 28, 2009. DO NOT PUBLISH. Tex. R. App. P. 47.2(B).
On Appeal from the 217th District Court, Angelina County, Texas, Trial Court Cause No. CR-27551.
Panel consists of Justices SEYMORE, BROWN, and SULLIVAN.
Appellant, Karissa Lou Hopson, was arrested at a house in Lufkin on July 7, 2007 and was charged with two offenses: (1) burglary, by entering a habitation without the owners' consent and with the intent to commit theft; and (2) criminal mischief, by intentionally or knowingly damaging or destroying tangible property without the owners' consent. See Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 30.02 (Vernon 2003) (burglary); id. § 28.03 (Vernon Supp. 2008) (criminal mischief). A jury convicted appellant of both offenses. On appeal of her burglary conviction, appellant insists that the evidence raised a fact issue as to whether she mistakenly believed she was preventing, not committing, a theft. She contends that this evidence required the trial court to submit a mistake-of-fact instruction to the jury, and that she was harmed by the trial court's refusal to do so. Because we hold that the requested instruction was not necessary, the trial court's judgment is affirmed.
Appellant has not appealed her conviction for criminal mischief.
BACKGROUNDOn July 7, 2007, police officers were summoned to a residence to investigate a suspected burglary in progress. Upon arrival, the officers saw appellant standing on the front porch of the house, holding a large television. Appellant set the television on the porch and approached the officers, claiming that she knew the house owners and that she had their permission to be on the property. However, the officers noticed that several of the house windows had been broken and that appellant had blood on her shirt and hand. The officers also saw that portions of the interior of the house, including furniture, had been damaged. Appellant was arrested at the scene. The owners of the house arrived at the scene roughly thirty minutes later. Both owners indicated that they did not know appellant, and they denied giving her permission to enter the premises or to remove their television from the house. The State charged appellant with burglary and criminal mischief. Appellant pleaded "not guilty" to both offenses, and a jury trial ensued. Appellant testified on her own behalf and, although she acknowledged that she had entered the residence and that she was carrying the owners' television when the police arrived, she offered a different interpretation of these undisputed facts. That is, she contended that she believed that, through her actions, she was actually thwarting a burglary that was being committed by another man, Cayetano Padierna. In support of this contention, appellant testified that she had stopped at the house to visit the owners, who were her friends. When she arrived, both owners were gone. In their place was Padierna, whom she did not know, who was removing items from the house. Thinking that Padierna was stealing from the owners, appellant confronted him and he left. Appellant then walked to the side of the porch, where she found the television. She picked the television up, claiming that she meant to return it to the house, when the police — who had been summoned by Padierna — arrived and arrested her. Based on her testimony, appellant contended that she reasonably, but mistakenly, believed Padierna was stealing from the owners and that, by picking up the owners' television, she was acting with the intent to prevent, not commit, a theft. Appellant asked the trial court to submit the following mistake-of-fact instruction to the jury:
A defendant who thought she was performing activity may lack the necessary criminal intent where she reasonably believes she acted to prevent a crime. If you believe that at the time of the offense charged, [appellant] reasonably believed that she acted to prevent a [t]heft, then you must find her not guilty.The trial judge refused the requested instruction. The jury found appellant guilty of burglary and Class A misdemeanor criminal mischief. The trial court assessed punishment as follows: (1) for burglary, twelve years' incarceration in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Institutional Division; and (2) for criminal mischief, confinement in the Angelina County jail for one year, with both sentences to run concurrently. Appellant timely brought this appeal, in which she contends that the trial court erred by refusing to submit her requested mistake-of-fact instruction, and that a reversal and remand for a new trial is required.
ANALYSISGenerally, a defendant is entitled to submission of an affirmative defensive instruction on every issue raised by the evidence even if the trial court thinks that the testimony could not be believed. See Chavers v. State, 991 S.W.2d 457, 459 (Tex.App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 1999, pet. ref'd). In this case, appellant contends that she raised a fact issue as to the mistake-of-fact defense, which is set forth by section 8.02 of the Texas Penal Code: "It is a defense to prosecution that the actor through mistake formed a reasonable belief about a matter of fact if his mistaken belief negated the kind of culpability required for commission of the offense." Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 8.02(a) (Vernon 2003). Appellant contends her testimony, if believed, would negate a finding that she acted with the intent to commit theft, that is, the degree of culpability required to convict her of burglary. Therefore, she argues that the trial court erred by refusing to submit a mistake-of-fact instruction. However, we hold that the requested instruction was not necessary because appellant's defense — that she lacked the requisite intent to commit theft because of a mistaken belief — was adequately covered by the charge submitted to the jury. Therefore, we conclude the trial court did not err by refusing to submit a defensive issue that merely denied the existence of an essential element of the State's case. See Chavers, 991 S.W.2d at 460. To support her argument, appellant directs us to Bang v. State, in which the Thirteenth Court of Appeals held that a mistake-of-fact instruction should be submitted whenever raised by the evidence. 815 S.W.2d 838, 841 (Tex.App.-Corpus Christi 1991, no pet.). However, Bang was closely followed by Bruno v. State, in which the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals indicated that a trial court is not always required to submit an unnecessary mistake-of-fact instruction if the defense is adequately covered by the charge as given. 845 S.W.2d 910, 913 (Tex.Crim.App. 1993). In Bruno, the defendant was accused of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle but testified that he believed he had the owner's permission to drive the car. See id. at 911. The Court of Criminal Appeals noted that, in some unauthorized-use cases, the defendant alleges that he was given permission to operate the vehicle by a third party he mistakenly believed to be the vehicle's owner. See id. at 912 (citing Gardner v. State, 780 S.W.2d 259, 263 (Tex.Crim.App. 1989)). Under those facts, a mistake-of-fact instruction becomes necessary because the jury could find that (1) the defendant believed he had the consent of the third party to use the vehicle, and (2) the true owner of the vehicle had not given him permission. Bruno, 845 S.W.2d at 912. However, in the absence of such a third party, the Court of Criminal Appeals determined that a mistake-of-fact instruction was unnecessary:
In the absence of this third party, the jury could not believe both the testimony of [the] true owner of the vehicle and the testimony of appellant as it could in Gardner. Only one of the incompatible stories could be believed. . . .
The jury heard both stories. As they would have necessarily been required to disbelieve appellant's story before they could find sufficient evidence to convict, the instruction need not have been given in the instant case. Simply because appellant testified that he had the consent of the owner of the vehicle does not entitle him to a mistake of fact instruction.Id. at 913. Other courts have reached similar conclusions. See Traylor v. State, 43 S.W.3d 725, 730-31 (Tex.App.-Beaumont 2001, no pet.) (concluding that mistake-of-fact instruction was unnecessary because, had jury believed defendant's story, it could not have convicted him under charge given); Sarver v. State, 24 S.W.3d 448, 454-55 (Tex.App.-Texarkana 2000, pet. ref'd) (holding that trial court was not required to submit independent-impulse instruction that was already adequately covered by charge); see also Sands v. State, 64 S.W.3d 488, 495-96 (Tex.App.-Texarkana 2001, no pet.) (concluding that mistake-of-fact instruction should have been given but holding that, because jury was "squarely" presented with defense of mistake, failure to submit requested instruction was not harmful). Here, the jury heard appellant's story. The effect of her testimony, and the thrust of her requested instruction, amounted to an attempt to convince the jury that her intent was something other than the criminal intent — that is, the intent to commit theft — that was necessary for the commission of a burglary. However, to convict her of that offense, the State was already required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that appellant entered the house, without the effective consent of the owners, with the intent to commit theft. See Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 30.02(a)(1); Coleman v. State, 832 S.W.2d 409, 413 (Tex.App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 1992, pet. ref'd) ("Intent, as an essential element of the offense of burglary, must be proved by the State beyond a reasonable doubt; it may not be left simply to speculation and surmise."). To that end, the jury received the following instruction:
[I]f you believe from the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant, . . . on or about the 7th day of July, 2007, in the County of Angelina, and State of Texas, as alleged in the indictment, did then and there, with intent to commit theft , enter a habitation, without the effective consent of Gregorio Cartagena or Cayetano Ramirez, the owner thereof, you will find the defendant guilty of the offense of Burglary of a Habitation and so say by your verdict, but if you do not so believe, or if you have a reasonable doubt thereof, you will acquit the defendant and say by your verdict "Not Guilty."The jury was also specifically instructed that it had to acquit the appellant if the State failed to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, each and every element of the charged offense. Thus, unless the jury found that appellant intended to commit theft, it was required to acquit her of burglary. Therefore, under these facts, the trial court was not required to submit a defensive issue that, in the context of this case, did no more than recast the required element of criminal intent as a defensive issue. See Goodrich v. State, 156 S.W.3d 141, 147 (Tex.App.-Dallas 2005, pet. ref'd); Chavers, 991 S.W.2d at 460; see also Davis v. State, 651 S.W.2d 787, 792 (Tex.Crim.App. 1983) ("When a refused charge is adequately covered by the charge given, no harm is shown."). As in Bruno and Traylor, appellant could not have been convicted under the charge given had the jury believed her story that she lacked the intent to commit theft. Apparently, they did not. The facts of this case may be contrasted with Bang, in which the defendant acted on a mistaken belief that his friend, Jesse Mouton, the principal actor in the burglary, actually owned the property in question. See Bang, 815 S.W.2d at 840. In that case, Jerry Bang agreed to drive Mouton, a minor, to a particular location and pick him up later. See id. When Bang returned, Mouton had an amplifier, a guitar case, and other items which Mouton claimed he owned. See id. The items were placed in the trunk of Bang's vehicle and driven to another location. See id. Ultimately, it was determined that the property had been stolen from a church, and Bang was charged with burglary. See id. at 839. Bang admitted that he intentionally performed certain acts that resulted in a burglary and theft of property. However, he claimed not to know that, through his conduct, he was participating in a burglary and theft. See id. at 842. Specifically, not knowing that the church was the true owner of the stolen items, Jerry Bang intended to appropriate property in a manner that deprived the actual owner — the church — of its property, and such appropriation was unlawful because it was done without the owner's consent. See Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 31.03(a) (Vernon Supp. 2008) ("A person commits an offense [of theft] if he unlawfully appropriates property with intent to deprive the owner of property."); id. § 31.03(b)(1) ("Appropriation of property is unlawful if . . . it is without the owner's effective consent[.]"). Under those facts, as in the unauthorized-use cases highlighted in Bruno, a mistake-of-fact instruction was necessary in Bang because the jury could have convicted him of the elements of the crime, while still believing that he lacked the requisite culpable mental state. Here, by contrast, the jury was squarely required to decide whether appellant acted with either the intent to commit theft or, under her version of the facts, with the intent to prevent a theft. As in Sands, the absence of a mistake-of-fact instruction did not deprive appellant of the right to have the jury consider her defense. See Sands, 64 S.W.3d at 496. Therefore, we hold that the trial court was not required to submit a separate mistake-of-fact instruction to the jury. We overrule appellant's only issue on appeal.