Fredy Eduardo Salazar Escobar v. the State of Texas

Fourth Court of Appeals San Antonio, Texas MEMORANDUM OPINION No. 04-21-00542-CR Fredy Eduardo SALAZAR ESCOBAR, Appellant v. The STATE of Texas, Appellee From the 451st Judicial District Court, Kendall County, Texas Trial Court No. 7682 Honorable Kirsten B. Cohoon, Judge Presiding Opinion by: Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice Sitting: Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice Liza A. Rodriguez, Justice Sandee Bryan Marion, Chief Justice (Ret.) 1 Delivered and Filed: July 31, 2023 AFFIRMED Appellant Fredy Eduardo Salazar Escobar challenges his judgment of conviction for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He argues the trial court erred by (1) improperly admitting expert testimony, (2) permitting the jury to view unadmitted physical evidence of a reconstructed taillight, and (3) failing to strike jurors who demonstrated bias against him. We affirm. 1 The Honorable Sandee Bryan Marion, Chief Justice (Retired) of the Fourth Court of Appeals, sitting by assignment of the Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court. See TEX. GOV’T CODE §§ 74.003, 75.002, 75.003. 04-21-00542-CR BACKGROUND Salazar Escobar was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after he repeatedly used his Chevy Avalanche pickup truck to ram the rear body of a Ford Focus driven by Brandon Wilcox. A jury found Salazar Escobar guilty, and the trial court sentenced him to eleven years with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Institutional Division. Salazar Escobar now appeals. EXPERT TESTIMONY Salazar Escobar argues the trial court erred in allowing expert testimony from Investigator James Walters because the State failed to provide proper notice pursuant to Texas Code of Criminal Procedure article 39.14(b). He further argues the trial court erred by permitting the investigator to testify as an expert on accident reconstruction even though he was not qualified as an expert. A. Lay Opinion Testimony Versus Expert Testimony Article 39.14(b) requires the disclosure of a Rule 702 expert. See TEX. CODE CRIM. PROC. art. 39.14(b). No article 39.14(b) notice of a Rule 702 expert was required if Investigator Walters’ testimony was not expert testimony. See id. We therefore first consider whether the trial court erred in permitting Investigator Walters to provide expert testimony. “An appellate court reviews a trial court’s ruling on the admission of evidence for an abuse of discretion.” Rhomer v. State, 569 S.W.3d 664, 669 (Tex. Crim. App. 2019). “The trial court abuses its discretion when it acts without reference to any guiding rules and principles or acts arbitrarily or unreasonably.” Id. “There is no distinct line between lay opinion and expert opinion.” Id. (citing Osbourn v. State, 92 S.W.3d 531, 537 (Tex. Crim. App. 2002)). “Generally, a lay witness’s observations which do not require significant expertise to interpret, and which are not based on a scientific theory, are -2- 04-21-00542-CR admissible if they satisfy the requirements of Texas Rule of Evidence 701.” Wade v. State, 663 S.W.3d 175, 186 (Tex. Crim. App. 2022). “Under Rule 701 of the Texas Rules of Evidence, a lay witness can testify in the form of an opinion if the opinion is (a) rationally based …

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