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State v. Saenz

Supreme Court of Maine

October 25, 2016

STATE OF MAINE
v.
CHRISTOPHER SAENZ

          Argued: September 14, 2016

         On the briefs:

          Robert Van Horn, Esq., Ellsworth, and Jeffrey C. Toothaker, Esq., Ellsworth, for appellant Christopher Saenz

          Janet T. Mills, Attorney General, and Lara M. Nomani, Asst. Atty. Gen., Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for appellee State of Maine

         At oral argument:

          Robert Van Horn, Esq., for appellant Christopher Saenz Lara M. Nomani, Asst. Atty. Gen., for appellee State of Maine

          Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          SAUFLEY, C.J.

         [¶1] Hilary Saenz died in her Ellsworth home on Christmas Day, 2013, after several days of beatings and injuries inflicted on her by her husband while her children were present. The immediate cause of her death was a subdural hematoma, a brain bleed that caused her to lose consciousness and die. Her husband, Christopher Saenz, was charged with her murder, and, following a jury-waived trial in the Superior Court (Hancock County, A. Murray, J.), convicted of depraved indifference murder, 17-A M.R.S. § 201(1)(B) (2015). He appeals, arguing that there was insufficient evidence for the court to have found beyond a reasonable doubt that (1) his actions caused his wifes death, and (2) he acted with a depraved indifference to the value of human life. See id.; State v. Erskine, 2006 ME 5, ¶ 9, 889 A.2d 312. We affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] Because Saenz challenges the sufficiency of the evidence, we summarize the trial courts extensive, supported factual findings in detail.

         [¶3] In November and December 2013, Hilary Saenz and Christopher Saenz were living together with their twelve-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son. In November 2013, Saenz expressed suspicion that his wife was cheating on him after he borrowed her telephone and did not recognize some of the telephone numbers in the call history. In the weeks leading up to Christmas 2013, Saenz argued with his wife about the numbers on her telephone four or five days per week.

         [¶4] Saenz physically assaulted his wife during many of these arguments. Over the course of December 22 through December 24, Saenz grabbed Hilarys arms, pushed her away, and smacked her face, causing a black eye. He also punched her legs, punched her arm, pushed her, held her down on a chair with his knee in her stomach, and squeezed her hand so tightly it bent the ring on her finger. On December 23, Saenz punched Hilary in the forehead during an argument in front of their son.

         [¶5] On December 24, the daughter observed bruising near her mothers eyebrow, cheekbone, and nose. Saenz admitted to his daughter that he had punched her mother in the face. He promised her that he would not do it again. That night, the daughter woke up in the middle ...


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