High Court affirms Guiao conviction and sentence


On Dec. 19, 2016, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Commonwealth v Carmelita Guiao, 2016 MP 15. The Court affirmed Guiao’s conviction of assault with a dangerous weapon and sentence of 10 years.

Guiao was found guilty of striking her live-in partner John Saimon with a vehicle.

Guiao appealed, arguing that her conviction and sentence should be vacated because the trial court erred by denying her motion for mistrial and improperly admitting testimony of a non-expert witness. Because Guiao’s opening brief did not cite to any legal authority, the high court ordered her to file a supplemental brief to remedy the defect, which Guiao subsequently filed.

The high court, having reviewed the parties’ briefs and heard oral arguments, decided that Guiao’s arguments would not be considered on appeal because they were not adequately argued, a violation of Supreme Court Rule 28(a)(9)(A). The high court found Guiao’s legal analysis cursory and conclusory, and found the cases cited by Guiao irrelevant.

The court noted that NMI Supreme Court Rules require that parties’ briefs contain legal arguments and analysis with citations to applicable authorities and that these rules are not simply advisory but fundamental to the adversarial system of justice.

The court stated “Before we can address the merits of an appeal, we must be first presented with those merits to examine. We are ‘not simply a depository which the appealing party may dump the burden of argument and research.’” The court further noted that it cannot act as an advocate of any party but only as arbiters of law. Because Guiao failed to properly present her arguments despite multiple opportunities to do so, the court affirmed the trial court’s judgment.

The Supreme Court’s full opinion is available at http://www.cnmilaw.org/supreme16.html. (NMI Judiciary)

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