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NMI high court reverses Carmelita Guiao’s conviction, remands case for new trial

(Press Release) — On March 20, 2017, the local Supreme Court issued its opinion in Commonwealth v. Carmelita M. Guiao, 2017 MP 2.

The court, by a two-to-one majority, granted Carmelita M. Guiao’s petition for a rehearing, and upon rehearing, reversed Guiao’s conviction of assault with a dangerous weapon and remanded the case for a new trial.

Carmelita GuiaoCarmelita Guiao

Guiao was tried before a jury and was convicted of assault with a dangerous weapon for striking her then-boyfriend John Saimon with a hot frying pan. Guiao appealed her conviction with the high court in 2013, arguing among other issues that her due process rights were violated because the trial court refused to provide jury instructions on assault and assault and battery as lesser included offenses of assault with a dangerous weapon.

In 2015, the high court affirmed the conviction, concluding the trial court had no duty to provide the lesser-included-offense instructions because the jury was only responsible for deciding the greater offense of assault with a dangerous weapon. See Commonwealth v. Guiao, 2015 MP

Subsequently, Guiao petitioned for a rehearing, arguing that the high court made an error in its decision. In her petition, Guiao argued the lesser-included-offense instruction was warranted by the evidence and the high court erred in concluding that lesser-offense jury instruction is not required when the offense is before the bench and not the jury.

On review, the majority concluded the trial court was correct to deny a lesser-included jury instruction on assault but should have given a lesser-included instruction of assault and battery.

Under 6 CMC 102(f), a dangerous weapon is one that is capable of causing a fatal wound or injury. The majority determined the trial court should have provided the jury the lesser-included instruction of assault and battery because there was “substantial evidence casting doubt on whether the pan in question was a dangerous weapon.”

Associate Justice John A. Manglona dissented, expressing his view that the trial court’s denial of a jury instruction on the lesser-included offense of assault and battery in this case was not plain error, and therefore, the 2015 decision did not warrant rehearing.

The high court’s full opinion is available at