Articles Posted in Criminal Law

by
John Bernal appealed his convictions for assault with a deadly weapon, reckless driving, and leaving the scene of an accident. Carmen Becerra and Bernal dated for approximately eight years. By March 2016, their relationship was strained. One afternoon, Carmen was visiting her cousin; Bernal showed up and asked her if they could talk. Carmen agreed to meet Bernal at his aunt’s house. Carmen and Bernal eft the house in separate cars. Stopped by construction, Bernal got out of his vehicle and walked toward Carmen, who was stopped behind him. Carmen testified Bernal looked angry, so she turned onto a side street to avoid a confrontation. Carmen testified she was driving fast so she could get away from Bernal, but he got back into his vehicle and followed her. While Bernal was following Carmen, she was on the phone with her brother, Gustavo Becerra. Gustavo testified that he could hear screaming, speeding, braking, commotion, and then Carmen abruptly hung up. Carmen hit her brakes, causing Bernal to lose control, spin out, and crash into a parked vehicle. Carmen drove to her home where she lived with her mother, Gustavo, and Gustavo’s family. Bernal arrived on foot. As Bernal was approaching the house, Gustavo told Bernal to leave. When Bernal made it halfway through the yard, Gustavo, who was still on the porch, picked up his baseball bat. An altercation ensured; Bernal left threatening to return. During closing arguments, Bernal argued he did not have a knife, that Gustavo was not a credible witness, and that Gustavo was the aggressor. He also argued that he was not identified as the driver of the car that collided with the parked car. Additionally, Bernal argued Carmen credibly testified, contrary to her previous statement to the police, that she did not see Bernal with a knife. The jury found Bernal guilty on all counts, including the sentencing enhancement, and the district court entered judgment. The Idaho Supreme Court determined Bernal failed to show fundamental error arose from an impermissible variance or from prosecutorial misconduct. Therefore, the Court affirmed Bernal's conviction. View "Idaho v. Bernal" on Justia Law

by
Joseph Herrera appealed his conviction for second-degree murder after a second trial. On appeal, Herrera argued: (1) the State vindictively prosecuted him by adding a sentencing enhancement; (2) the district court erred when it failed to conduct a sufficient inquiry into his request for substitution of appointed counsel; (3) the district court abused its discretion when it overruled objections to a detective’s testimony regarding gunshot residue analysis; (4) the State committed prosecutorial misconduct in closing arguments; (5) the accumulation of errors deprived him of a right to a fair trial; and (6) the district court judge imposed a vindictive sentence after the second trial. After review of the second trial record, the Idaho Supreme Court found no reversible errors and affirmed Herrera’s conviction and sentence. View "Idaho v. Herrera" on Justia Law

by
Charges were brought against Charles Capone following the disappearance of Rachael Anderson in April of 2010. He was convicted by jury of felony first degree murder, failure to notify coroner or law enforcement of death, and conspiracy to commit failure to notify coroner or law enforcement of death. Capone challenged the sufficiency of the evidence to support his conviction and claimed the district court erred in the admission of certain evidence and by denying his motion for new trial. Finding no error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Idaho v. Capone" on Justia Law

by
Kilo Le Veque appealed district court decisions to revoke his probation and subsequently relinquish jurisdiction. Le Veque argued the district court abused its discretion in these decisions by refusing to consider the propriety of the terms of his probation at the revocation hearing and by relinquishing jurisdiction solely because Le Veque had not obtained a polygraph examination that the district court desired. The Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s order revoking probation and reversed the district court’s order relinquishing jurisdiction. The Idaho Supreme Court granted the State’s petition for review and: (1) affirmed the district court’s decision revoking Le Veque’s probation; (2) reversed the district court’s decision relinquishing jurisdiction; and (3) remanded the case for further proceedings before a new district court judge. View "Idaho v. Le Veque" on Justia Law

by
The State appealed the dismissal of a charge against defendant Laura Akins for her failure to notify of a death pursuant to Idaho Code section 19-4301A. In November 2015, Kimberly Vezina’s body was found wrapped in a tarp and a shower curtain in Lake Coeur d’Alene. Law enforcement’s investigation revealed that Laura Akins was suspected of disposing the body after Vezina died of a drug overdose. The statute imposes a duty on persons who find or have custody of a body to promptly notify authorities. It also prescribes the punishment for failure to comply with that duty, including felony punishment for failing to notify with intent to prevent discovery of the manner of death. The issue this case presented for the Idaho Supreme Court’s review was whether defendant’s prosecution under this statute would violate her Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. The Supreme Court hold that it would, based on the unique set of facts of this case and affirmed the district court’s decision to dismiss the charge. View "Idaho v. Akins" on Justia Law

by
Shane Kraly was convicted by jury on various charges, including injury to a child. Kraly argued the jury verdict as to the injury to child charge was not supported by sufficient evidence to conclude that he assumed care or custody of the minor child, M.M. M.M. met Kraly on social media through a mutual friend. When they met in person, Kraly showed M.M. how to use methamphetamine. After review of the district court judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court vacated the judgment of conviction and remanded with instructions for the entry of a judgment of acquittal as to the injury to child charge. However, Kraly’s other convictions remain. On a day M.M. did not show up for school, the school called her father, and her father called M.M.’s juvenile probation officer. Using M.M.’s ankle monitor’s GPS coordinates, law enforcement tracked M.M. to the casino parking lot and discovered Kraly and M.M. sitting in his truck. Kraly was later arrested and charged with rape, injury to child, possession of methamphetamine, and possession of drug paraphernalia. After trial, a jury found Kraly guilty on all counts. The pertinent part to “injury to child” was that the actor had to willfully cause a child to suffer, having the care or custody of any child. Under this standard Kraly argued he did not have “care or custody” of M.M. during the hours he spent with her and his conviction of injury to child had to be vacated. The Idaho Supreme Court agreed and reversed conviction as to that charge. The Supreme Court affirmed in all other respects. View "Idaho v. Kraly" on Justia Law

by
Anthony Robins, Jr. was convicted by jury for aiding and abetting two first-degree murders and an attempted first-degree murder. While incarcerated prior to trial, Robins’s cell was searched and handwritten notes he had prepared in anticipation of a meeting with counsel were seized and delivered to the prosecuting attorney. The district court granted Robins partial relief from a violation of his attorney-client privilege but placed the burden on him to object at trial if the State offered evidence or argument arising from the privileged materials. Robins argued the district court erred in fashioning this remedy, and the Idaho Supreme Court agreed. In light of the circumstances, the Supreme Court vacated his judgment of conviction and remanded the case with instructions to hold an evidentiary hearing to determine whether the State can overcome the presumption of prejudice arising from its violation of Robins’s attorney-client privilege. If the State can overcome the presumption, the Court held a new trial had to be conducted from which the prosecutor's office had to be recused. View "Idaho v. Robins" on Justia Law

by
The issue this case presented for the Idaho Supreme Court's review centered on whether the district court erred in its application of Idaho Rule of Evidence 404(b). Juan Salinas was charged with attempted lewd conduct with a minor under sixteen after engaging in online conversations with a detective who posed as an adult. He discussed entering a sexual relationship with the fictitious adult and her minor daughter, and was arrested when he later drove to a hotel where he and the detective had agreed to meet. The State sought to admit evidence of similar conversations that Salinas had with others, as well as sexually-explicit pictures of a fifteen-year-old and four-year-old girl, not part of the State’s fictitious scenario. The district court admitted all the challenged evidence except the picture of the fifteen-year-old, which the court found was propensity evidence and prohibited under the Idaho Rules of Evidence. The district court found Salinas guilty of attempted lewd conduct after a bench trial. Salinas appealed his conviction, arguing the challenged evidence should have been excluded as inadmissible propensity evidence. After review, the Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err in admitting the challenged evidence and affirmed the judgment of conviction. View "Idaho v. Salinas" on Justia Law

by
This appeal arose out of Russell Passons’s motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Idaho Criminal Rule 35. The district court denied the motion on the basis of controlling precedent of the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals relied on that precedent, Idaho v. Hernandez, 818 P.2d 768 (Ct. App. 1991), to affirm the district court’s decision. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "Idaho v. Passons" on Justia Law

by
In 2015, Deputy Harvey Ballman was patrolling the area near the intersection of Highways 95 and 53 in Kootenai County. At approximately 10:50 p.m., Deputy Ballman observed a vehicle, driven by defendant Antonia Fuller, traveling a few car lengths in front of him. When Fuller continued on the roadway and drove her vehicle around the right-hand curve, Deputy Ballman observed the front passenger-side tire of Fuller’s vehicle drive onto and temporarily across the solid white line on the right-hand side of the roadway (i.e., the fog line). Deputy Ballman then initiated a traffic stop, citing Fuller’s failure to maintain her lane of travel as required under Idaho Code section 49-637(1). During the traffic stop, Deputy Ballman discovered that Fuller did not have a valid driver’s license or liability insurance. Fuller was arrested for violations of Idaho Code sections 49-301(1) and 49-1232 before conducting an inventory search of her vehicle. That search revealed methamphetamine, prescription drugs, and drug paraphernalia. Fuller was never cited for a traffic offense. After considering the parties’ arguments, the district court ultimately concluded Deputy Ballman did not have a reasonable, articulable suspicion that section 49-637(1) was violated. The district court thus granted Fuller’s motion to suppress. The State appealed. The Idaho Supreme Court concluded the traffic stop was unconstitutional, and affirmed the district court’s order suppressing the evidence. View "Idaho v. Fuller" on Justia Law