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State v. Galvan

Supreme Court of Minnesota

June 6, 2018

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Gonzalo Galvan, Appellant.

          Office of Appellate Courts Hennepin County

          Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Brittany D. Lawonn, Assistant County Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for respondent.

          Cathryn Middlebrook, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Anders J. Erickson, Assistant State Public Defender, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for appellant.

         SYLLABUS

         1. The evidence was sufficient to convict appellant of two counts of first-degree premeditated murder.

         2. Because the district court instructed the jury on second-degree intentional murder and first-degree premeditated murder and the jury found appellant guilty of first-degree premeditated murder, the defendant was not prejudiced by the district court declining to instruct the jury on first-degree heat-of-passion manslaughter.

         Affirmed.

          OPINION

          ANDERSON, JUSTICE

         A Hennepin County jury found appellant Gonzalo Galvan guilty of two counts of first-degree premeditated murder for the shooting deaths of his long-time girlfriend, Eugenia Tallman, and Tallman's 15-year-old daughter, Victoria Alvarez. The district court convicted Galvan of first-degree premeditated murder and imposed consecutive life sentences. At trial, Galvan admitted shooting the victims but argued that the murders were not premeditated. Galvan also sought a jury instruction on first-degree heat-of-passion manslaughter. The court declined to give the instruction, citing a "vacuum of evidence" to support the instruction.

         In this direct appeal, Galvan contends that the State failed to present evidence at trial sufficient to establish premeditation and that the district court committed reversible error by declining to instruct the jury on first-degree heat-of-passion manslaughter. Because we conclude that the State presented sufficient evidence to sustain Galvan's convictions and that Galvan was not prejudiced by the district court's decision to not instruct the jury on first-degree heat-of-passion manslaughter, we affirm.

         FACTS

         At 5:11 p.m., on September 25, 2015, Galvan called 911 and told the dispatcher that he had "shot [his] family." Galvan said that he was "giving up" and that his son was alive. Galvan told the dispatcher that he was not armed and that the gun would "be in the trash container." Galvan also said that Tallman had threatened to take away his son. He hung up the phone after telling the dispatcher that his son needed help going to the bathroom. Four minutes later, Galvan called 911 again. He asked that the police not shoot him or his son and reiterated that he was not armed.

         Police responded to the front and rear of the house. Three officers arrived from the rear of the property, proceeding over a fence, across the backyard, and onto the back porch. Once through the back-porch door and the inside door to the home, the officers discovered Tallman. Her body was face down on the floor, her head toward the porch and her feet toward the kitchen. Entering the kitchen, the officers discovered Alvarez. Her body was on her right side, on the floor, against the kitchen cabinets and her head was against the refrigerator. The officers observed gunshot wounds to both Tallman's head and Alvarez's head and quickly determined that the victims were dead.

         Standing in the kitchen, officers observed Galvan in the living room, looking out the front window and talking on the phone. Galvan was barefoot, dressed in only athletic shorts and a sleeveless shirt. M.G., the seven-year-old son of Galvan and Tallman, was sitting a few feet from Galvan.

         Officers in the front of the house shouted commands for Galvan to come outside of the house. Galvan opened the door, stepped outside, dropped the cell phone from his hand, and walked down the stairs. While several officers took Galvan into custody, another officer entered the front of the house, picked up M.G., and carried him to a squad car.

         Galvan was unharmed. The police found no weapons on the victims. There was no sign of a struggle or physical altercation between the victims and Galvan.

         Officers recovered a Smith & Wesson, semiautomatic, 9-millimeter handgun from the wastebasket in the kitchen. One round was in the chamber and three rounds were in the magazine, which had a 16-round capacity. Ultimately, police identified 11 bullets and 12 discharged cartridge casings. A magazine holder was found on a shelf in the basement stairwell, which contained another magazine loaded with 16 rounds.

         Tallman had been shot twice in the back of the head. One shot entered the back, lower-left side of her head and exited the right side of her head. The other shot entered the back, right side of her head, traveled slightly upward, and exited the right side of her forehead. Blood splatter on the door separating the kitchen and the back porch was consistent with Tallman having ducked before Galvan shot her. Each shot would have been incapacitating and ultimately fatal.

         When Galvan murdered her, Tallman was wearing a backpack. Inside were bus schedules, receipts, hair ties, bus tickets, M.G.'s school paperwork, a child's drawing, underwear for a young male, and a purse and wallet containing identification and medical cards for Tallman, Alvarez, and M.G. Close to her hands were a set of keys, a child's bottle, and a second backpack. The position of these items was consistent with Tallman having held them in her hands when Galvan shot her.

         Tallman had a plastic bag containing several envelopes of cash, totaling $21, 800, under her bra. The second backpack had a nametag with M.G.'s name on it and contained school folders, a sweatshirt, pants, t-shirts, and underwear.

         Galvan shot Alvarez six times: once in the head, three times on the right side of her chest, once in the abdomen, and once in the right hip. Stippling patterns around bullet wounds to Alvarez's forehead, hand, and chest were consistent with Galvan having fired those shots from one-half inch to three feet away. An imprint of concentric circles around the bullet wound to Alvarez's forehead suggested that the muzzle of the handgun had touched her forehead, although the medical examiner did not determine the head shot to be a contact wound. A graze injury to Alvarez's left hand corresponded to the wound to her forehead, consistent with Alvarez having raised her arms in front of her face just before Galvan shot her in the forehead.

         The position of Alvarez's head, leaning against the refrigerator, and the pooling and splatter of blood around her body, were consistent with Galvan having shot her in the forehead last. A DNA analysis of blood recovered from Galvan's foot produced a match to Alvarez. Blood on Alvarez's wrist was consistent with Galvan at some point having stepped on Alvarez's arm. Further, the stippling on her skin ...


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