State v Garcia

The State sought review of the Utah Court of Appeals decision vacating Garcia’s attempted murder conviction for jury instruction error and Garcia sought review of the decision rejecting his argument that his directed verdict motion as to possession of a firearm by a drug user should have been granted. The Court reversed as to the attempted murder verdict and affirmed as to the directed verdict motion. It held that the Court of Appeals would have erred if it presumed error when jury instructions misstate elements as the Court precedent relied upon did not hold that and the United states supreme Court has rejected that argument and also the Court of Appeals did err when it failed to consider the evidence before the jury and evaluate whether the affirmative defense of improper self-defense could have been reasonably found by the jury. The Court held that under the correct analysis there was no prejudice from the improper jury instruction as evidence from Garcia’s statements to police demonstrate Garcia was motivated to kill victim because he lost it and wanted to kill him not because he feared for his life and thus there is no basis to undermine confidence in the attempted murder verdict. As to the directed verdict motion, the Court held that the issue the proper construction of  “unlawful user of a controlled substance” in Utah code 76-10-503(1)(b(iii) was raised and ruled upon by the district court and thus the Court of Appeals erred in holding it unpreserved. It held that Garcia’s proposed construction requiring that the accused have drugs in his system is untenable as the statute does not have such a requirement and federal circuit courts have rejected similar arguments about a materially identical federal statute. However, it held that the prosed construction requiring contemporaneous and regular use of drugs at the time of the alleged possession of the firearm comports with the statue’s text and has been accepted by several federal courts. It finally held that under this construction, the motion was properly denied because Garcia admitted to using cocaine and being paranoid when off cocaine and the jury could infer that this use was both regular and contemporaneous to the shooting at issue here and thus district court’s error in not correctly construing the state was harmless.

PC Riverview, LLC v Cao

Cao sought review of the Court of Appeals decision holding her guarantee of a lease remained in effect after successor parties altered the payment schedule. The Court affirmed. It held that Cao was not entitled to either notice of modifications or a right of refusal under the terms of the guarantee, the extension of time to pay in the modification was not material as it did not increase Cao’s liability and thus she remained liable for the rent and alter fees in question here. It also held the Court of Appeals should have addressed the alternative grounds for affirmance in Cao’s brief, but the error was harmless as one argument was unpreserved and her evidentiary argument was without merit as the assignment of the lease was admissible under Rule of Evidence 901(a) as the assignee’s president authenticated the document. It finally awarded PC attorney fees on appeal under the original lease and remanded to the district court for calculation.