Brandon Lee Burchfield v. The State of Texas--Appeal from 213th District Court of Tarrant County
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COURT OF APPEALS
SECOND DISTRICT OF TEXAS
THE STATE OF TEXAS
FROM THE 213TH DISTRICT COURT OF TARRANT COUNTY
In seven points, Appellant Brandon Lee Burchfield appeals his conviction
for intoxication manslaughter. We affirm
See Tex. R. App. P. 47.4.
II. Factual and Procedural History
On February 22, 2008, Burchfield, Charles Osborn, and Alex Aparacio,
picked up a thirty pack of beer and headed to a party at Joe Pool Lake in
Osborn’s truck. They arrived around 9:00 p.m. and began drinking beer and
tequila shots. After several hours, Osborn became ill and Burchfield agreed to
drive Osborn to get something to eat. On the way to a nearby McDonald’s, while
travelling on Debbie Lane in Arlington, Texas, Burchfield collided head-on with a
car driven by Nogaelda Zavala. Two of Zavala’s children, Karen and Angel, were
with her in the car. Zavala died in the collision, Karen suffered minor injuries,
and Angel’s leg was broken. Osborn, thrown from the truck in the crash, is now a
Because Burchfield smelled of alcohol and had slurred speech, responding
Arlington Police Officer Ryan Eastlick called a DWI unit to the accident scene.
Dylan Eckstrom, the DWI officer, noted that Burchfield smelled of alcohol and
that he had glassy, bloodshot eyes. Burchfield told Officer Eckstrom that he had
drunk a ―beer and a half.‖
After administering field sobriety tests, Officer
Eckstrom arrested Burchfield for DWI. Because the crash resulted in a death
and because Burchfield refused to voluntarily take a breath test, Burchfield was
subject to a mandatory blood test.
After the blood draw, Officer Eckstrom
transported Burchfield to the Arlington Police Station where Burchfield waived his
Miranda rights and was interviewed. During the interview, Burchfield admitted to
drinking alcohol and to being the driver of Osborn’s truck when it hit Zavala’s
vehicle. The trial court admitted the interview videotape.
At trial, Osborn testified that after the accident Burchfield told him that ―we
had hit something and we needed to run, because [Burchfield] was drunk.‖
Joyce Ho, a senior toxicologist and lab manager in the Tarrant County Medical
Examiner’s Office, testified about the processes and results of tests run on
Burchfield’s blood samples.
During Ho’s testimony, the State offered the
toxicology report on Burchfield’s blood in evidence.
The trial court overruled
Burchfield’s objection that the report was not admissible because Ho was not
custodian of the Medical Examiner’s records. After the toxicology report was
admitted, Ho testified that Burchfield’s blood-alcohol level was 0.17. Burchfield
did not object to Ho’s testimony about his blood-alcohol level.
Officer Eckstrom testified that Burchfield failed the field sobriety tests, that
Burchfield refused to consent to a breath test, and that, because a fatality was
involved, the law allowed a mandatory blood draw. The trial court overruled
Burchfield’s objection to Officer Eckstrom’s testimony about Burchfield’s refusal
to take a breath test.
Timothy Lovett, an expert witness in ―vehicle autopsies‖ employed as a
private investigator for Crash Dynamics, testified that the truck was fully
functioning and capable of operating before the accident and that the postaccident damage to the truck was consistent with a somewhat offset head-on
Officer Eastlick testified that the damage to both vehicles was
consistent with a head-on collision; that the passenger side of the truck had
scrape marks and embedded yellow paint specks consistent with the paint from
the roadway’s center dividing line; that, before the accident, the truck was
traveling westbound; and that the fluid trail and debris patterns indicated that the
point of impact was in the eastbound traffic lane.
The jury found Burchfield guilty of intoxication manslaughter and made an
affirmative finding that Burchfield used the truck as a deadly weapon. The jury
then sentenced Burchfield to ten years’ confinement and a $10,000 fine. This
III. Sufficiency of the Evidence
In his second through fifth points, Burchfield challenges the legal and
factual sufficiency of the evidence to support both his conviction and the jury’s
deadly weapon finding. However, as the court of criminal appeals has recently
overruled Clewis v. State, 922 S.W.2d 126, 133–34 (Tex. Crim. App. 1996), we
review his sufficiency complaints under only the standard set out in Jackson v.
Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319, 99 S. Ct. 2781, 2789 (1979). See Brooks v. State,
323 S.W.3d 893, 895 (Tex. Crim. App. 2010) (overruling Clewis v. State, 922
S.W.2d 126 (Tex. Crim. App. 1996)).
A. Standard of Review
In reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence to support a conviction, we
view all of the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution in order to
determine whether any rational trier of fact could have found the essential
elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson, 443 U.S. at 319, 99
S. Ct. at 2789; Clayton v. State, 235 S.W.3d 772, 778 (Tex. Crim. App. 2007).
This standard gives full play to the responsibility of the trier of fact to resolve
conflicts in the testimony, to weigh the evidence, and to draw reasonable
inferences from basic facts to ultimate facts. Jackson, 443 U.S. at 319, 99 S. Ct.
at 2789; Clayton, 235 S.W.3d at 778. The trier of fact is the sole judge of the
weight and credibility of the evidence. See Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 38.04
(Vernon 1979); Brown v. State, 270 S.W.3d 564, 568 (Tex. Crim. App. 2008),
cert. denied, 129 S. Ct. 2075 (2009).
Thus, when performing a sufficiency
review, we may not re-evaluate the weight and credibility of the evidence and
substitute our judgment for that of the factfinder. Dewberry v. State, 4 S.W.3d
735, 740 (Tex. Crim. App. 1999), cert. denied, 529 U.S. 1131 (2000). Instead,
we ―determine whether the necessary inferences are reasonable based upon the
combined and cumulative force of all the evidence when viewed in the light most
favorable to the verdict.‖ Hooper v. State, 214 S.W.3d 9, 16–17 (Tex. Crim. App.
2007). We must presume that the factfinder resolved any conflicting inferences
in favor of the prosecution and defer to that resolution. Jackson, 443 U.S. at 326,
99 S. Ct. at 2793; Clayton, 235 S.W.3d at 778.
The sufficiency of the evidence should be measured by the elements of the
offense as defined by the hypothetically correct jury charge for the case, not the
charge actually given. Hardy v. State, 281 S.W.3d 414, 421 (Tex. Crim. App.
2009); Malik v. State, 953 S.W.2d 234, 240 (Tex. Crim. App. 1997). Such a
charge is one that accurately sets out the law, is authorized by the indictment,
does not unnecessarily restrict the State’s theories of liability, and adequately
describes the particular offense for which the defendant was tried. Golihar v.
State, 46 S.W.3d 243, 253 (Tex. Crim. App. 2001); Malik, 953 S.W.2d at 240.
However, we may not affirm a conviction based on legal or factual grounds that
were not submitted to the jury.
Malik, 953 S.W.2d at 238 n.3.
authorized by the indictment means the statutory elements of the charged
offense as modified by the factual details and legal theories contained in the
charging instrument. See Curry v. State, 30 S.W.3d 394, 404–05 (Tex. Crim.
B. Intoxication Manslaughter
A person commits the offense of intoxication manslaughter if he operates a
motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated and by reason of that intoxication
causes the death of another by accident or mistake. See Tex. Penal Code Ann.
§ 49.08(a) (Vernon Supp. 2010). To be intoxicated is to (1) not have the normal
use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a
controlled substance, a narcotic, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two
or more of those substances, or any other substance into the body; or (2) have
an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.
§ 49.01(2)(A), (B) (Vernon 2003).
See Tex. Penal Code. Ann.
The indictment in this case alleged that
Burchfield committed the offense of intoxication manslaughter by
[O]perat[ing] a motor vehicle in a public place while intoxicated, and
did by reason of such intoxication cause the death of another,
Nogaelda Zavala, through accident or mistake, namely: driving said
motor vehicle into or against an automobile occupied by Nogaelda
Zavala, and said defendant was intoxicated by not having the normal
use of his mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction
of alcohol into his body or by having an alcohol concentration of at
To conform to the indictment, a hypothetically correct jury charge would require
the state to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Burchfield, (1) while
intoxicated (2) either by introducing alcohol into his system or having a bloodalcohol level of at least 0.08, (3) operated a motor vehicle (4) in a public place
and (5) as a result of being intoxicated, (6) by accident or mistake drove that
vehicle into Zavala’s car, (7) causing her death.
The record reflects that on the night of the accident Burchfield’s blood
alcohol was 0.17, that he admitted to drinking and to being intoxicated, that he
was driving the truck on Debbie Lane in Arlington when the accident occurred,
that the truck hit Zavala’s car, and that Zavala died as a result of the accident.
Burchfield’s statements on the night of the accident, the toxicology report, Officer
Eckstrom’s testimony, and the video recording of Burchfield’s field sobriety tests
support the jury’s finding that Burchfield was intoxicated at the time of the
See, e.g., Compton v. State, 120 S.W.3d 375, 380 (Tex. App.—
Texarkana 2003, pet. ref’d) (holding evidence legally sufficient to support a DWI
conviction when the jury heard the State Trooper’s testimony about the stop and
saw the video recording of appellant’s field sobriety test performance).
Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, we
conclude that the jury could have found that Burchfield was intoxicated and that
the evidence is legally sufficient to sustain his conviction for intoxication
manslaughter. We overrule Burchfield’s second point.
C. Deadly Weapon Finding
In his fourth point, Burchfield claims that the evidence was legally
insufficient to prove that the pickup truck constituted a deadly weapon because
the State is required to prove more than a mere ―theoretical capability‖ that the
object is capable of causing death or serious injury.
asserts that because there is no evidence that he either drove the truck in a
reckless manner, clearly endangering the lives of others, or that he rapidly
accelerated the vehicle toward Zavala’s vehicle, the truck could not be
considered a deadly weapon.
The penal code defines ―deadly weapon‖ as ―anything that in the manner
of its use or intended use is capable of causing death or serious bodily injury.‖
Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 1.07(a)(17)(B) (Vernon Supp. 2010). ―[I]t is reasonably
clear that driving an automobile constitutes the use of it and that driving it in a
manner capable of causing death or serious bodily injury constitutes [the
automobile] a deadly weapon.‖ Tyra v. State, 897 S.W.2d 796, 798 (Tex. Crim.
Here, more than mere theoretical harm occurred: the accident caused
injuries, paralysis, and death. Burchfield admitted to drinking and then driving
The record shows that the truck and Zavala’s vehicle were
travelling in opposite directions, that the damage to both vehicles was consistent
with a head-on collision, and that Burchfield crossed the center lane and hit
Zavala’s car head-on. Viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the
prosecution, the jury could have determined beyond a reasonable doubt that
Burchfield used or intended to use his vehicle in a manner capable of causing
death or serious bodily injury.
See Tex. Penal Code. Ann. § 1.07(a)(17)(B);
George v. State, 117 S.W.3d 285, 290–91 (Tex. App.—Texarkana 2003, pet.
ref’d) (holding evidence that intoxicated defendant crossed the center line and
caused an accident in the opposite traffic lane was legally sufficient to support
finding that defendant used his automobile as a deadly weapon); Ray v. State,
880 S.W.2d 795, 795–96 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 1994, no pet.) (same).
We overrule Burchfield’s fourth point.
IV. Evidentiary Objections
In his first and sixth points, Burchfield asserts that the trial court abused its
discretion by admitting the toxicology report containing the results of his blood
test and Officer Eckstrom’s testimony that Burchfield refused to take a breath test
on the night of the accident.
A. Standard of Review
An appellate court may not disturb a trial court’s evidentiary rulings absent
an abuse of discretion. Winegarner v. State, 235 S.W.3d 787, 790 (Tex. Crim.
App. 2007). In other words, as long as the trial court’s decision was within the
zone of reasonable disagreement and was correct under any theory of law
applicable to the case, it must be upheld. Id. (citing Montgomery v. State, 810
S.W.2d 372, 391 (Tex. Crim. App. 1990) (op. on reh’g)). This is so because trial
courts are usually in the best position to determine whether certain evidence
should be admitted or excluded. Id.
B. The Toxicology Report
In his first point, Burchfield argues that the toxicology report contained
inadmissible hearsay and was not properly authenticated because the witness
testifying to the report’s predicate, Joyce Ho, was not the custodian of the
Laboratory reports and medical records are admissible under rule of
evidence 803(6), which provides that the following are not excluded by the
[a] memorandum, report, record, or data compilation, in any form, of
acts, events, conditions, opinions, or diagnoses, made at or near the
time by, or from information transmitted by, a person with
knowledge, if kept in the course of a regularly conducted business
activity, and if it was the regular practice of that business activity to
make the memorandum, report, record, or data compilation, all as
shown by the testimony of the custodian or other qualified witness,
or by affidavit that complies with Rule 902(10), unless the source of
information or the method or circumstances of preparation indicate
lack of trustworthiness. ―Business‖ as used in this paragraph
includes any and every kind of regular organized activity whether
conducted for profit or not.
See Tex. R. Evid. 803(6) (emphasis added); Mitchell v. State, 750 S.W.2d 378,
379 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth 1988, pet. ref'd). Rule 803(6) does not require the
witness laying the predicate for the introduction of the records to be the custodian
of the records.
Mitchell, 750 S.W.2d at 379.
The witness need only have
personal knowledge of the manner in which the records were prepared. See id.;
see also Melendez v. State, 194 S.W.3d 641, 644 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th
Dist.] 2006, pet ref’d) (indicating that rule 803(6) does not require the witness
laying the predicate to be the person making the record or even employed by the
organization that made or maintained the record).
Ho testified that she was a senior toxicologist and lab manager for the
Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office. She also testified about the manner
in which blood evidence is submitted to the laboratory and the laboratory’s
internal evidence-handling and toxicology-testing processes. Ho identified her
initials on the samples of Burchfield’s blood and testified that she received the
blood in a sealed vial, that she performed the tests on Burchfield’s blood, and
that she generated the toxicology report. Ho also stated that, even though she
was not the custodian of the Medical Examiner’s records, she had access to
Ho’s testimony served as predicate for admission of Burchfield’s toxicology
reports under rule 803(6); thus, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by
admitting the report. See Melendez, 194 S.W.3d at 644; Conseco v. State, 199
S.W.3d 437, 440 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2006, pet. ref’d) (noting that the
requirements of rule 803(6) are met so long as the testifying witness has
personal knowledge of the recorded information); see also Simmons v. State,
564 S.W.2d 769, 770 (Tex. Crim. App. 1978) (finding sufficient predicate for rule
803(6) when a supervisor, without personal knowledge of a probation report’s
contents, testified that the party making entries in the report had personal
knowledge of the facts reported). We overrule Burchfield’s first point.
C. Officer Eckstrom’s Testimony
In his sixth point, Burchfield contends that the trial court erred by allowing
Officer Eckstrom to testify that Burchfield refused to take a breath test on the
night of the accident.
Burchfield argues that because a blood test was
mandatory, his refusal to take a breath test was not relevant and was unduly
We initially note that because the offense was committed before
September 1, 2009, former section 724.012 governs the mandatory blood draw
at issue in this case. See Act of June 20, 2003, 78th Leg., R.S., ch. 422, § 2,
2003 Tex. Gen. Laws 1669 (amended 2009) (current version at Tex. Transp.
Code Ann. § 724.012(b) (Vernon Supp 2010)).
Former section 724.012
A peace officer shall require the taking of a specimen of the person’s
breath or blood if:
(1) the officer arrests the person for an offense under Chapter
49, Penal Code, involving the operation of a motor vehicle
or a watercraft;
(2) the person was the operator of a motor vehicle or a
watercraft involved in an accident that the officer
reasonably believes occurred as a result of the offense;
(3) at the time of the arrest the officer reasonably believes that
as a direct result of the accident:
(A) any individual has died or will die; or
(B) an individual other than the person has suffered
serious bodily injury; and
(4) the person refuses the officer’s request to submit to the
taking of a specimen voluntarily.
Id. (emphasis added).
Because the statute requires Burchfield’s refusal to
voluntarily provide a blood or breath specimen before a mandatory sample can
be taken, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by admitting Officer
Eckstrom’s testimony. See id.; see also Stidman v. State, 981 S.W.2d 227, 229
(Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 1998, no pet.) (recognizing that—based on
similar ―refusal to voluntarily give sample‖ language in 1998 version of statute—
evidence of defendant’s refusal to voluntarily give blood sample was statutory
predicate to mandatory blood draw). We overrule Burchfield’s sixth point.
In his seventh point, Burchfield contends that his ten-year sentence
violates the doctrine of proportionality and thus constitutes cruel and unusual
punishment under both the United States and Texas Constitutions.
The Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution, article 1, section
13 of the Texas Constitution, and Texas Code of Criminal Procedure article 1.09
prohibit excessive bail, excessive fines, and cruel and unusual punishment. U.S.
Const. amend VIII; Tex. Const. art I, § 13; Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 1.09
(Vernon 2005). On August 14, 2009 at the conclusion of Burchfield’s trial on
punishment, the jury sentenced Burchfield to ten years’ confinement and a
Burchfield did not object to his sentence at the time it was imposed or in a
motion for new trial, and raises this issue for the first time on appeal. Thus,
Burchfield has failed to preserve his complaint.
Error may not be asserted
regarding sentence or punishment where such alleged error is not brought to the
attention of the trial court by objection or otherwise.
Mercado v. State, 718
S.W.2d 291, 296 (Tex. Crim. App. 1986); Kim v. State, 283 S.W.3d 473, 475–76
(Tex. App.—Fort Worth 2009, pet ref’d.). We overrule Burchfield’s seventh point.
Having overruled all of Burchfield’s points, we affirm the trial court’s
PANEL: LIVINGSTON, C.J., DAUPHINOT and MCCOY, JJ.
DO NOT PUBLISH
Tex. R. App. P. 47.2(b)
DELIVERED: January 6, 2011