Submitted on Briefs: June 21, 2017
From District Court of the Eighth Judicial District, In and
For the County of Cascade, Cause No. DDC-14-365 Honorable
Dirk M. Sandefur, Presiding Judge
Appellant: Chad Wright, Chief Appellate Defender, Koan
Mercer, Assistant Appellate Defender, Helena, Montana.
Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Katie F.
Schulz, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana Carey Ann
Haight, Cascade County Attorney, Joshua A. Racki, Deputy
County Attorney, Great Falls, Montana.
MCGRATH CHIEF JUSTICE.
Adam Sanchez, Jr. appeals from his October 2015 conviction
and sentence for deliberate homicide and several other
offenses. We affirm.
The issue on appeal is whether the District Court abused its
discretion by giving jury instruction No. 12: "When
circumstantial evidence is susceptible to two
interpretations, one that supports guilt and one that
supports innocence, the jury determines which is most
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
This case arises from an August 2014 incident in Cascade
County, Montana. A Montana Highway Patrol Trooper observed
Sanchez's vehicle driving over the speed limit and
attempted to make a traffic stop. Sanchez did not stop but
continued driving through the Great Falls area, often at high
speed, while being pursued by officers. Pursuing officers and
citizens in the area observed Sanchez slowing when he needed
to avoid a collision with other vehicles, and they observed
him waiting for oncoming traffic to clear before passing
other vehicles. Officers observed Sanchez maneuver around
barriers at high speed, including driving into the roadside
ditch, all the while maintaining control of his vehicle.
Cascade County Deputy Sheriff Joe Dunn placed his patrol car
off the side of the road with emergency lights flashing and
attempted to lay spike strips on the highway ahead of
Sanchez's vehicle. Motorists on the same roadway saw
Deputy Dunn on or near the roadway, and slowed or stopped in
response. Witnesses observed that Sanchez did not stop, but
passed another vehicle then swerved his vehicle to Deputy
Dunn's side of the roadway and struck him. Witnesses
reported that Dunn was in plain view and that Sanchez could
have avoided him but instead swerved toward Dunn striking him
with his vehicle. Witnesses and patrol car video showed that
Sanchez had a clear field of vision and that there was no
oncoming traffic when he swerved to hit Deputy Dunn. There
was no evidence that Sanchez slowed or attempted to brake as
he hit Deputy Dunn, who died from the impact.
Sanchez did not stop. After hitting Deputy Dunn, he continued
to elude pursuit at high speeds. Other drivers narrowly
avoided being hit by Sanchez's vehicle, and Sanchez
swerved toward another officer who was on the road setting up
tire spikes. In that incident, Sanchez left his lane of
travel, crossed a double center line and swerved in front of
oncoming traffic toward the officer. Fortunately, that
officer was not injured. Sanchez eventually stopped in Black
Eagle after officers disabled the tires of his vehicle.
Sanchez continued to try to move his vehicle, resisted
arrest, and fought with officers. He was eventually subdued.
The State charged Sanchez with felony offenses of deliberate
homicide (§ 45-5-102, MCA); assault with a weapon
(§ 45-5-213, MCA); assault on a police officer (§
45-5-210, MCA); and two counts of criminal endangerment
(§ 45-5-207, MCA). The jury convicted Sanchez of all the
charged offenses but one. On that charge the jury convicted
him of a lesser included offense, negligent endangerment,
§ 45-5-208, MCA. The District Court sentenced Sanchez to
life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
A district court has broad discretion when instructing a
jury, which this Court reviews for abuse of discretion.
State v. Zlahn, 2014 MT 224, ¶ 14, 376 Mont.
245, 332 P.3d 247. We review the instructions as a whole to
determine whether they fully and fairly instruct the jury on
the applicable law. State v. Kaarma, 2017 MT 24,
¶ 7, 386 Mont. 243, 390 P.3d 609. Reversible ...