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Cruz v. State

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

March 3, 2017

JESUS GARDUNO CRUZ
v.
STATE OF MARYLAND

          Krauser, C.J. Graeff, Nazarian, JJ.

          OPINION

          Graeff, J.

         Jesus Garduno Cruz, appellant, was convicted by a jury, in the Circuit Court for Wicomico County, of first and second degree rape, third and fourth degree sex offenses, first and second degree assault, kidnapping, and reckless endangerment. The court imposed a sentence of 40 years for the conviction of first degree rape, and the remaining convictions were merged for sentencing purposes.

On appeal, appellant raises the following question:
Did the circuit court err by not striking the testimony of the main witness for the State?

         For the reasons set forth below, we answer that question in the negative, and therefore, we shall affirm the judgments of the circuit court.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Because the sole issue on appeal involves the competency of a witness to testify, we shall provide only a brief recitation of the facts.

         Ms. F. testified that, on May 22, 2015, she was abducted by appellant, who drove her to a field, pulled her out of the vehicle, and raped her at gunpoint. She described how she struggled with appellant during the rape and eventually managed to escape.

         On cross-examination, defense counsel asked whether the victim, who admitted that she was a heroin addict, had used heroin the day of trial. The victim responded that she had used $40 worth of heroin at 6:30 that morning. Defense counsel moved to strike her testimony, stating: "She has used heroin today. She could be under the influence of it now. She has obviously admitted to using it. I don't believe she is competent to testify due to the fact that she has been using heroin." (emphasis added). The court denied the motion, stating: "The witness['] . . . answers to questions have been very responsive. She has handled herself very well. She does not appear to be in any way under the influence, so I'm going to deny your motion."

         Molly Rollo, an expert in forensic serology and DNA analysis, testified that swabs taken from the victim's body contained appellant's DNA. She also found DNA consistent with profiles of appellant and the victim on the interior of a condom found behind a chicken coop at appellant's house.

         Appellant testified that he saw the victim at approximately 11:00 p.m. on May 21, 2015, at a store along the "route" she worked, and he accepted her offer to have sex in exchange for $20. Later that night, his brother called, and he learned that the victim was trying to charge his brother $80 to engage in sexual activity. He told the victim that the price was too high, and his brother was leaving. Appellant testified that the victim became upset and left.

         DISCUSSION

         Appellant contends that the circuit court erred in denying his motion to strike the victim's testimony. He asserts that, "[b]ecause she used heroin earlier that morning and was an admitted addict, one may only speculate about whether her drug usage interfered with her ability to testify truthfully, " and ...


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