Justia Idaho Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Criminal
by
Richard Hess appealed an order of restitution entered against him following his guilty plea to trafficking heroin. Hess relied on the Idaho Supreme Court’s decision in Idaho v. Nelson, 390 P.3d 418 (2017), to argue that there was insufficient evidence to support all but $1,500 of the award. The Court of Appeals reversed the restitution order, and the Supreme Court granted the State’s timely petition for review. The Court determined that $500 of the district court’s award of investigation costs was unsupported by the evidence. However, the district court correctly awarded the remaining amounts of restitution because: (1) Hess failed to preserve his foundational objections; and (2) substantial evidence supported the remainder of the award. View "Idaho v. Hess" on Justia Law

by
Jesus Manuel Garcia was found guilty by jury of second-degree murder, aggravated battery, use of a deadly weapon during the commission of the former crimes, and possession of a controlled substance. The district court sentenced Garcia to an indeterminate life sentence with twenty-five years fixed for second degree murder, which included a sentencing enhancement for the use of a deadly weapon. The district court also sentenced Garcia to twenty years, with six years fixed, for aggravated battery; this also included a sentencing enhancement for the use of a deadly weapon. The district court further sentenced Garcia to three years fixed for the possession of a controlled substance conviction. All three sentences were ordered to run concurrently. In addition, the district court ordered restitution to the victims in the amount of $162,285.27. Garcia timely appealed, arguing: (1) the district court abused its discretion in allowing the State to present “in-life” photos of the victim and to elicit testimony about the victim’s personality and character during trial; (2) the prosecutor committed misconduct when she referred to this challenged evidence in her closing statement; (3) Garcia was deprived of due process because of the cumulative errors; (4) the district court abused its discretion in imposing a sentence that did not give proper weight and consideration to mitigating factors; and (5) the district court abused its discretion in ordering Garcia to pay restitution without adequately considering his current and future ability to pay restitution. Finding only that the district court abused its discretion in ordering restitution without proper consideration of Garcia's ability to repay the amount in the future, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed conviction, vacated the restitution order, and remanded for reconsideration of Garcia's foreseeable ability to pay restitution. View "Idaho v. Garcia" on Justia Law

by
Prior to sentencing, defendant James Burke was committed to the state mental hospital for 56 days to restore him to competency. After being evaluated and deemed competent to proceed to trial, Burke was returned to the county jail and later pleaded guilty pursuant to a plea agreement. At the conclusion of his sentencing hearing, Burke sought credit for the 56 days of time spent in court-ordered commitment. The district court denied the motion, concluding that commitment to a state mental hospital did not fall under the definition of ‘incarceration’ in Idaho Code section 18-309. After reviewing this issue carefully, the Idaho Supreme Court disagreed with the district court’s "thorough and thoughtful analysis," holding that court-ordered commitment to state custody pursuant to Idaho Code sections 18-210 and 18-211 met the functional and legal definition of “incarceration” under Idaho Code section 18-309. "The extent of the liberty interests restricted by Burke’s court-ordered commitment to State Hospital North are just too similar to imprisonment to conclude otherwise." Accordingly, the Court reversed the district court’s order denying Burke’s request for credit for time served and remanded the case for the district court to enter an order crediting him with the fifty-six days he spent committed to State Hospital North while the State restored his competency to face criminal charges. View "Idaho v. Burke" on Justia Law

by
Riley Lodge appealed a no contact order entered against him as a result of his being convicted of two counts of sexual battery of a minor child sixteen or seventeen years of age. After Lodge pleaded guilty to these two counts, the district court entered a no contact order which prohibited Lodge from having contact with the named victims and “[a]ll minor children.” On appeal, Lodge contended the district court abused its discretion by failing to provide an exception to the no contact order for two minor children who were also his biological children, and who were conceived as a result of the underlying sexual batteries. Lodge argued the district court failed to exercise reason because there was no evidence that he posed a threat to his own children. The Idaho Supreme Court found no abuse of discretion and affirmed the district court and the no contact order. View "Idaho v. Lodge" on Justia Law

by
Martin Edmo Ish appealed his conviction and sentence for one count of voluntary manslaughter. The State charged Ish with second-degree murder in November 2015 for the June 2009 killing of Eugene Lorne Red Elk in Pocatello, Idaho. Ish and friends were barhopping when at some point, Ish had a confrontation with staff at the Bourbon Barrel. Ish and his friends went a few blocks away to Duffy's Tavern. The friends returned to the Bourbon Barrel, but Ish did not; Barrel staff called Duffy's to alert them of Ish's earlier confrontation. Red Elk was working at Duffy's as a bouncer. He asked Ish to leave, and Ish complied. Later that night, however, Red Elk was discovered in Duffy's parking lot "gurgling blood." He had suffered a brain injury from blunt force trauma to the head; despite being life-flighted to a medical center in Idaho Falls, Red Elk died three days later. TO police, Ish admitted that he “blasted” Red Elk and he “was pretty sure he killed him because he was laying [sic] there gurgling.” A trial was held in April 2017 after which the jury found Ish guilty of the lesser-included charge of voluntary manslaughter. Ish appealed, claiming the trial order erred in seating and instructing the jury, and in making certain evidentiary rulings. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court vacated the judgment of conviction and remand for a new trial. The Supreme Court determined the district court’s finding that the prosecution did not strike Juror 3 with discriminatory intent was clearly erroneous. The Court affirmed the trial court in all other respects. View "Idaho v. Ish" on Justia Law

by
Michael Hayes was convicted by jury of felony battery on a correctional officer. Hayes appealed his judgment of conviction on three grounds: (1) the district court erred by failing to issue subpoenas for two medical professionals; (2) the district court abused its discretion by allowing the State to inquire into prior instances of Hayes’ conduct towards correctional officers; and (3) the district court abused its discretion by denying Hayes’ motion for a new trial. The Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s order denying Hayes’ requests for subpoenas, and held that the district court abused its discretion by allowing the State to inquire into prior instances of Hayes’ conduct. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals vacated the district court’s judgment of conviction and remanded the case for a new trial. The Idaho Supreme Court granted the State’s petition for review, and finding the district court did not err in issuing its judgment, the Supreme Court reversed the appellate court and affirmed the trial court's judgment of conviction. View "Idaho v. Hayes" on Justia Law

by
Thomas Hooley appealed a district court’s decision to dismiss his pro se filing entitled “Motion For New Trial Based on Evidence withheld in violation of Brady with attached exhibits in support of motion.” In July 2014, a jury convicted Hooley of first-degree kidnapping and aiding and abetting aggravated battery. Hooley unsuccessfully appealed his conviction to the Court of Appeals. The Idaho Supreme Court denied his petition for review and issued a remittitur on December 18, 2015. In May 2018, Hooley lodged a pro se filing with the district court. Almost 200 pages in length, the first pages of the filing were a “sparse” legal template on which Hooley handwrote information. In the substantive portion of the motion, Hooley wrote that a “New Trial motion based on evidence withheld in violation of Brady cannot be denied on basis that new trial would not have produced different outcome and such violations not subject to harmless error analysis.” He also included statements of law and citations. The district court treated the filing as an untimely motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence under Idaho Criminal Rule 34. The district court denied the motion as untimely, reasoning that Hooley’s motion was filed outside of the 2-year time constraint on Rule 34 motions because his underlying judgment of conviction became final on December 18, 2015, when the remittitur was issued. Hooley appealed and argued that the district court should have construed his filing as a petition for post-conviction relief. The Court of Appeals affirmed. After granting Hooley’s timely petition for review, the Idaho Supreme Court concurred with the district court and affirmed its order. View "Idaho v. Hooley" on Justia Law

by
Dave Christensen was indicted by a grand jury on five counts of lewd conduct with two minors under sixteen. The State notified Christensen of its intent to introduce interviews of the two alleged victims at trial under Idaho Rules of Evidence (“I.R.E.”) 803(4) and 803(24). At a pretrial hearing, the district court ruled the interviews were admissible because the victims’ statements were made for purposes of medical diagnosis or treatment. The interviews were admitted at trial by stipulation. A jury found Christensen guilty on four of the five counts. Christensen appealed the district court’s admission of the interviews. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Idaho v. Christensen" on Justia Law

by
Jeffrey Marsalis appealed a district court’s decision summarily dismissing his petition for post-conviction relief from his 2009 rape conviction. Marsalis alleged that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to: (1) challenge the testimony of the State’s expert witness regarding his and the victim’s blood alcohol levels; (2) present favorable eyewitness testimony at trial; and (3) properly advise him of his speedy trial rights under the Interstate Agreement on Detainers (IAD). After review, the Idaho Supreme Court reversed in part, and affirmed in part the district court's decision. The Court affirmed the district court’s summary dismissal of Marsalis’s claim that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to call an allegedly favorable eyewitness at trial. However, it reversed and remanded the case for an evidentiary hearing on Marsalis’s claim that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge the underlying methodologies supporting the State’s expert witness’s testimony and for failing to present an expert witness to discuss the scientific basis behind Marsalis’s blackout defense. The Court also remanded the case back to the district court so it could provide Marsalis with twenty days’ notice to respond to the court’s grounds for dismissing Marsalis’s claim that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to inform him of his speedy trial rights under the IAD. View "Marsalis v. Idaho" on Justia Law

by
In 2011, a district court granted Aaron Roth a temporary furlough while he was in jail for a probation violation. Under the furlough order, Roth was released from custody. Roth failed to return. In 2017, six years after he absconded, Roth was arrested and later charged with escape, a felony under Idaho Code section 18-2505. A jury found Roth guilty of escape. Roth then moved the district court for a judgment of acquittal under Idaho Criminal Rule (“I.C.R.”) 29, or in the alternative, to dismiss pursuant to I.C.R. 48(a)(2). The district court granted the motion to dismiss under I.C.R. 48(a)(2). The State appealed the district court’s dismissal. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court concluded the district court abused its discretion by dismissing Roth's case. "This ruling extended the reach of due process too far. ... Due process is not a rigid standard and is satisfied when a defendant is provided notice and an opportunity to be heard. Roth had his opportunity to be heard and was sufficiently notified of the furlough order’s requirements to satisfy due process based on the district court explaining the details of the furlough order on the record at the arraignment hearing. The fact, as found by the district court, that Roth did not receive a written copy of the furlough order does not vitiate the notice that Roth had received in court from the judge." The Supreme Court reversed dismissal and remanded for further proceedings. View "Idaho v. Roth" on Justia Law