Gonzalez v. HartAnnotate this Case
In 2007, a jury found Arquimides Gonzalez guilty of family violence battery, two counts of aggravated assault, kidnapping with bodily injury, and two counts of aggravated battery in connection with two incidents involving his ex-girlfriend. He was sentenced to life in prison for kidnapping; 20 years in prison for each aggravated assault and each aggravated battery, to be served consecutively to each other and to the life sentence; and 12 months in prison for family violence battery, to be served consecutively to all other sentences, for an aggregate sentence of life plus 81 years in prison. On motion for new trial, Gonzalez successfully argued to the trial court that one of the counts of aggravated assault should have merged with a count of aggravated battery for the purpose of sentencing, so even though the motion for new trial was denied on other grounds, these counts were merged and he was re-sentenced for an aggregate sentence of life plus 61 years in prison. On direct appeal to the Court of Appeals, Gonzalez contended that the trial court erred in refusing to merge the two aggravated battery counts for the purpose of sentencing and that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to request a jury charge on false imprisonment as a lesser included offense of the kidnapping with bodily injury charge. The Court of Appeals determined that the two counts of aggravated battery merged, vacated the sentence on the second such count, and remanded the case for resentencing; it rejected the claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel and affirmed Gonzalez's remaining convictions and sentences. Gonzalez filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus, arguing: (1) ineffective assistance of trial counsel for failing to request a jury charge on false imprisonment as a lesser-included offense of kidnapping with bodily injury and for mentioning his immigration status to the jury; (2) ineffective assistance of appellate counsel for failing to raise insufficiency of the evidence regarding the kidnapping with bodily injury charge under Garza v. Georgia (670 SE2d 73 (2008)); and (3) cruel and unusual punishment in the imposition of a life sentence for the kidnapping with bodily injury inasmuch as the evidence viewed in light of Garza would not support the conviction. The habeas court denied relief. In so doing, it determined, inter alia, that under Garza there was sufficient evidence to establish that Gonzalez committed the charged offense of kidnapping with bodily injury beyond a reasonable doubt, including the element of asportation, and consequently, it rejected Gonzalez's claim that his appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise on appeal insufficiency of the evidence of kidnapping in light of Garza. The Supreme Court concluded after review that the habeas court's determination in this regard was in error, reversed and remanded for further proceedings.