Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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Mother Jane Doe appealed a magistrate court’s termination of her parental rights to her child T.G.E. At the time she gave birth, Mother had pending felony drug charges and an active warrant for her arrest; the child’s umbilical cord tested positive for methamphetamine at birth. Following a termination hearing, the magistrate court found termination proper based on neglect and entered an order to that effect on December 8, 2017 (the Order). However, in a subsequent decree (the Decree) issued on December 15, 2017, the magistrate court stated Mother’s parental rights were being terminated based on abandonment. The court also terminated Father’s parental rights however, Father had voluntarily relinquished his parental rights and was not a party to this appeal. On appeal, both Mother and the Department raised procedural issues relating to the conflicting Order and Decree. Subsequently, the Idaho Supreme Court remanded the case for entry of a new judgment terminating Mother and Father’s rights to Child, and stated the Order would constitute the findings of fact and conclusions of law. Mother appealed, contenting the magistrate court erred when it terminated Mother’s parental rights. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the ultimate termination. View "DHW v. Jane Doe" on Justia Law

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Jason Godwin, Sr. appealed after he was convicted for the second degree murder of Kyle Anderson in 2014. In his appeal, Godwin argued district court erred: (1) by denying his motion to suppress evidence of statements he made to police; (2) by requiring him to show personal knowledge of Anderson’s violent or aggressive character before allowing him to present evidence of that character; and (3) by failing to properly instruct the jury on justifiable homicide under section 18-4009 of the Idaho Code. Godwin also argued the State committed prosecutorial misconduct by impermissibly vouching for evidence and witnesses in closing arguments. Godwin asserted the complained-of errors in his case, even if harmless individually, amounted to a due process violation when viewed cumulatively. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed his conviction. View "Idaho v. Godwin, Sr." on Justia Law

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Jeffrey Jeske appealed his conviction of felony driving under the influence (DUI), contending the district court erred: (1) when it allowed the deputy prosecutor to comment on his refusal to consent to a blood draw to test it for alcohol; (2) when it allowed regarding testimony of uncharged misconduct; and (3) when it allowed the State to amend the charges against him the morning of the trial and in refusing to give a requested jury instruction. Jeske claimed the cumulative error doctrine required his conviction to be vacated. Rejecting these contentions, and finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed Jeske's conviction. View "Idaho v. Jeske" on Justia Law

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Matthew Abramowski was charged with, and ultimately pled guilty to, first degree arson when he was 15 years old. He was charged as an adult, but received a blended sentence which gave the Department of Juvenile Corrections jurisdiction over Abramowski while he was a juvenile. The district court withheld judgment and eventually dismissed the case. After the dismissal, Abramowski filed a motion to seal the case pursuant to Rule 32(i) of the Idaho Court Administrative Rules. At the motion hearing, the district court realized that Abramowski was not just asking that his record be sealed, but that all traces of the case on the court’s repository be erased from public view. The district court entered an order sealing Abramowski’s record up through the age of twenty-one but instructed Abramowski to file a motion to expunge the record to give the State an opportunity to respond to his request. Abramowski filed a motion to expunge and was given a hearing, but the district court denied his request for expungement, determining that the public interest in knowing of Abramowski’s serious charge predominated over his privacy interests. Abramowski then filed a motion to reconsider and presented witnesses at the reconsideration hearing, but the district court again determined the public interest predominated over his privacy interests. Abramowski appealed, arguing that the district court abused its discretion. Finding the district court did not abuse its discretion, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the judgment. View "Idaho v. Abramowski" on Justia Law

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Gregg Miller appealed after he was convicted for injury to a child and felony eluding. As to the injury to a child conviction, Miller argued the jury instruction, combined with the prosecutor’s closing argument, created a fatal variance with the information. Miller also argued the prosecutor committed prosecutorial misconduct during closing arguments by appealing to the emotions, passions, and prejudices of the jury, and by misstating the evidence. The Court of Appeals affirmed, and Miller timely filed a petition for review to the Idaho Supreme Court. After careful consideration of his arguments, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s judgment of conviction, clarifying the fundamental error doctrine articulated in Idaho v. Perry, 245 P.3d 961 (2010). View "Idaho v. Miller" on Justia Law

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Phillip Smalley was convicted by jury on two counts of sexual abuse of a vulnerable adult and one count of sexual penetration by a foreign object. On appeal, Smalley argued: (1) there was insufficient evidence to sustain his convictions for sexual abuse of a vulnerable adult because to qualify as a “vulnerable adult,” the victim must have mental deficits, not just physical infirmity; and (2) the trial court erred in admitting the victim’s preliminary hearing video deposition instead of live in-court testimony, because she was not “unavailable” as required by the Idaho Rules of Evidence. The Court of Appeals upheld Smalley’s convictions. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Idaho v. Smalley" on Justia Law

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In 2009, a jury convicted Vance Thumm of aggravated battery or aiding and abetting aggravated battery and of being a persistent violator of the law. In 2013, through counsel, Thumm petitioned for post-conviction relief to which the State responded by filing a motion for summary disposition. The district court eventually granted the State’s motion and dismissed the post-conviction petition. Thumm appealed alleging: (1) ineffective assistance of counsel at trial, sentencing, and on appeal; (2) a Brady violation; (3) prosecutorial misconduct; and (4) cumulative error. The Idaho Supreme Court found no reversible error, and affirmed the district court’s grant of summary disposition. View "Thumm v. Idaho" on Justia Law

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This case centered on whether the State presented substantial evidence to the district court to support an award of restitution for costs actually incurred by the State in prosecuting Jeremy Cunningham for drug charges. In the first appeal, the Idaho Supreme Court vacated the district court’s award of restitution and remanded the case. After conducting a second restitution hearing and hearing live testimony from an administrative assistant with the Ada County prosecuting attorney’s office, the district court awarded restitution to the State in the amount of $906.75 (over $1000 less than awarded at the first hearing). Cunningham appealed again, arguing that the district court erred in awarding restitution. On appeal, Cunningham contended the district court improperly admitted hearsay evidence at the hearing and that the district court abused its discretion by awarding restitution without substantial evidence of the prosecution’s costs. The Supreme Court agreed with this latter point, and vacated the district court’s award of restitution. The Court did not remand: "[t]he State had two opportunities to claim restitution, and remanding for a third opportunity would be improper." View "Idaho v. Cunningham" on Justia Law

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Zuatney Gonzalez pleaded guilty to two criminal counts of possession of a financial transaction card in Bannock County, Idaho, and thereafter requested credit for time served while she was jailed in Canyon County on similar, but unrelated charges. At issue in this appeal was a question of the proper amount of credit for time served to which Gonzalez was entitled. The Idaho Supreme Court focused its decision on whether Gonzalez’s position was properly raised and ruled upon by the district court. Because the Supreme Court held that it was not, Gonzalez’s appeal failed. However, the Court recognized some confusion arose over how it addresses a new legal argument made on appeal in light of Idaho v. Garcia-Rodriguez, 396 P.3d 700 (2017), and Ada County Highway District v. Brooke View, Inc., 395 P.3d 357 (2017). In this opinion, the Court took the opportunity to clarify the rule announced in those cases and explain why it reached two very different decisions in each case. View "Idaho v. Gonzalez" on Justia Law

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Mark Garnett was an overnight guest in the residence of an absconded felony probationer, Tamara Brunko. Probation officers searched the residence, including an attached storage room, and found Garnett’s locked backpack containing a stolen firearm. Garnett, a felon himself, was arrested and charged with unlawful possession of a firearm. He sought to suppress the evidence found in the backpack, but the district court denied his motion because it determined that while he had standing to challenge the search of the backpack, the officer had reasonable suspicion that Brunko owned, possessed, or controlled the backpack. Following a jury trial, Garnett was found guilty. Garnett appealed his conviction, arguing that the district court should have applied a reasonable belief standard and that had it done so the motion to suppress would have been granted. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of conviction. View "Idaho v. Garnett" on Justia Law