State of Utah v. Tran

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State v. Tran. Filed March 18, 1999  


State of Utah,
Plaintiff and Appellee,


Ba Quang Tran,
Defendant and Appellant.

(Not For Official Publication)

Case No. 981051-CA

March 18, 1999 1999 UT App 081


Second District, Ogden Department
The Honorable Michael J. Glasmann

Jonathan B. Pace, Ogden, for Appellant
Jan Graham and Brent A. Burnett, Salt Lake City,for Appellee


Before Judges Wilkins, Davis, and Orme.


A jury convicted appellant of first degree murder. Appellant appeals the conviction and sentence, asserting that there is insufficient evidence to support the verdict. We affirm.

Appellant contends that the state failed to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, each and every element of murder. Specifically, he contends that the State failed to prove that appellant had any criminal intent to murder Kim. He asserts that the testimony of Ms. Dolph was so unreliable that the jury should have discounted it completely, and that, because he raised the issue of self-defense, the State cannot prove that he had the necessary mens rea required to be convicted of murder. We disagree.

Essentially, appellant's claim on appeal is that the jury should have believed his account of the events and his claim of self-defense over the State's evidence that contradicted appellant's story. Of critical importance to our inquiry on this issue are the trial exhibits which appellant has failed to make a part of the record on appeal, including photographs of the victim's wounds, the audiotape of the 911 telephone call and the videotape of appellant's statement to the police. Appellant asks this court to overturn the jury's verdict, by ruling that there was insufficient evidence to support the verdict, without providing this court with an adequate record of all the evidence. We cannot. In the absence of an adequate record on appeal, this court will assume the regularity and correctness of the proceedings below, as we are unable to review the evidence as a whole. State v. Wetzel, 868 P.2d 64, 67 (Utah 1993); State v. Snyder, 932 P.2d 120, 131 (Utah Ct. App. 1997). As a direct result of appellant's failure to provide an adequate record on appeal, he failed to sustain his burden to marshal the evidence supporting the verdict and demonstrate how the evidence, including all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom, is insufficient to support the verdict. See State v. Gallegos, 851 P.2d 1185, 1198-90 (Utah Ct. App. 1993); Horton v. Gem State Mutual, 794 P.2d 847, 849 (Utah Ct. App. 1990).

Despite the omissions, there is sufficient evidence in the record to support the jury's verdict. When reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence supporting a jury verdict, we review "the evidence and all inferences that may reasonably be drawn from it in the light most favorable to the verdict of the jury." State v. Gibson, 908 P.2d 352, 355 (Utah Ct. App. 1995). "[W]e will reverse the conviction only when the evidence . . . 'is sufficiently inconclusive or inherently improbable that reasonable minds must have entertained a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime of which he was convicted.'" State v. Quada, 918 P.2d 883, 887 (Utah Ct. App. 1996) (citation omitted). The presentation of conflicting evidence does not preclude a finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Underwood, 737 P.2d 995, 996 (Utah 1987). "When the findings of all the requisite elements of the crime can be reasonably made from the evidence and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from it, our inquiry stops, and we sustain the verdict." State v. Humphrey, 793 P.2d 918, 924 (Utah Ct. App. 1990).

In the case at hand, although appellant presented conflicting evidence through his own testimony, the evidence and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom support a finding of all the requisite elements of murder. It is the jury's function to resolve questions of reliability and to weigh conflicting evidence and draw conclusions therefrom. Humphrey, 793 P.2d at 924. We assume that the jury believed those facts that support its verdict. The jury had the prerogative to believe the State's evidence, including Ms. Dolph's testimony, and to reject appellant's claim of self-defense.

Substantial evidence, including the medical examiner's testimony, Ms. Dolph's testimony, Trieu's testimony, and the investigating officer's testimony, and reasonable inferences drawn therefrom, contradict appellant's theory of self-defense. Moreover, the severity and nature of Kim's injuries alone, which appellant wholly fails to explain, contradict appellant's theory of self-defense and support an inference of criminal intent. It is well-established that intent can be proven by circumstantial evidence. State v. James, 819 P.2d 781, 789 (Utah 1991). "In the majority of cases, evidence of intent is generally supplied by evidence of the injury by which the victim died or of the act which caused the death. The inference is made that the natural consequences of that act were intended to occur. These types of cases turn on the nature of the injury leading to death and the relative level of carelessness or intent that can be inferred therefrom." Id. at 790. Kim was viciously stabbed and cut numerous times, savagely strangled, and beaten by an assailant who attacked her from behind. Her shirt was twisted clear around and her arms and hands were repeatedly cut as she attempted to protect herself. The brutality of these acts cannot be denied, and unquestionably supports an inference of the requisite unlawful intent, while at the same time dispelling a claim of self-defense.

The evidence adduced by the State was not "so inconclusive or inherently improbable that reasonable minds must have entertained a reasonable doubt" that the appellant intended to murder Kim. Accordingly, we affirm appellant's conviction and sentence.

Michael J. Wilkins,
Presiding Judge

James Z. Davis, Judge

Gregory K. Orme, Judge