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State of North Dakota v. Vicente Erasno Chacano

January 23, 2013

STATE OF NORTH DAKOTA, PLAINTIFF AND APPELLEE
v.
VICENTE ERASNO CHACANO,
DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT



Appeal from the District Court of Cass County, East Central Judicial District, the Honorable Steven E. McCullough, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kapsner, Justice.

N.D. Supreme CourtState

v.

Chacano,

2013 ND 8

This opinion is subject to petition for rehearing. [Go to Documents]

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Concurrence filed.

AFFIRMED. Opinion of the Court by Kapsner, Justice.

[¶1] Vincente Chacano appeals from a criminal judgment entered after a jury found him guilty of two counts of attempted murder. Because the trial court did not err in admitting an audio recording of the courtroom scuffle, sufficient evidence exists to sustain the convictions, and the prosecutor's improper statement in closing argument does not reach the level of obvious error, we affirm the criminal judgment.

I

[¶2] In February 2011, Chacano was on trial in Adams County, but he was not in custody of law enforcement. After closing arguments, Chacano left to eat lunch, and he returned to the courtroom in early afternoon when the jurors had reached a verdict. After the guilty verdicts were read, the jurors were polled and then excused. As the jurors began exiting the courtroom, Chacano produced a handgun. A scuffle ensued, and Chacano was subdued by Assistant North Dakota Attorney General Jonathan Byers and then Sheriff Eugene Molbert. The State charged Chacano with attempted murder of Byers, Molbert, and the twelve jurors.

[¶3] At trial, the State offered an audio recording of the courtroom scuffle and evidence Chacano had brought a loaded handgun and three clips containing thirty-eight rounds of ammunition into the courtroom. Byers testified that as the jury began to leave, he turned and Chacano pointed the gun at him and pulled the trigger. Byers testified Chacano appeared bewildered when the gun did not fire and began working the gun's action. Byers lunged at Chacano to disarm him. Molbert testified that as he ran at Chacano, Chacano pointed the gun at him as well. The gun did not go off, and Byers and Molbert subdued Chacano.

[ΒΆ4] Chacano testified he did not bring the gun into the courtroom to harm anyone. Chacano testified that the night before the incident, he planned to shoot a predator that had killed some chickens at his rural home. Chacano testified he was unable to find the predator, so he put the gun in his pickup and went back to town. He testified he was not feeling well and was under considerable stress because of the trial. As he returned to court after the lunch recess, Chacano testified he saw the gun in his pickup and tucked it behind his waistband, planning to put it under the vehicle seat when he arrived at the courthouse. Later realizing he had the gun with him in the courtroom, Chacano testified he got up to get rid of it, and his "body felt like electricity," he felt a pain in his head, and his ...


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