Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Busy Day at the Court

The Court issued seven (!) new opinions today (and one substitute opinion), including three criminal cases.

In State v. Ruiz, the district court would not permit the defendant to cross-examine a codefendant about the mandatory prison sentence he avoided by agreeing to testify for the State. The Supreme Court held that the lower court erred by not conducting the analysis required by IRE 403 and vacated the conviction.

Morrison and Ruiz were both charged with trafficking in methamphetamine. Morrison agreed to testify against Ruiz in exchange for a reduction in the charge against him to delivery of a controlled substance, thus avoiding the three year mandatory minimum sentence. The State agreed to recommend probation if Morrison testified truthfully. During Ruiz’s trial, the prosecutor, outside the presence of the jury, stated that there should not be any mention of the mandatory minimum that Morrison avoided and the district court limited Ruiz's cross-examination in that way.

The Supreme Court found the district court erred. First, it noted that the district court found that evidence of the mandatory minimum was relevant and thus presumptively admissible under IRE 402. It then noted that relevant evidence may be excluded under Rule 403. "To exclude evidence under Rule 403, the trial court must address whether the probative value is substantially outweighed by one of the considerations listed in the Rule." However, "[t]he district court here did not conduct that analysis. It merely said, "You can’t talk about minimum mandatories." It concluded that "[b]ecause it excluded the evidence without conducting the analysis required by Rule 403, the district court erred."

Because it vacated the conviction under IRE 403, the Court did not reach Ruiz's claim that his right to confront witnesses was violated.

This case may be helpful to us because it suggests the Court must do the 403 weighing on the record. That only makes sense because a mental weighing of 403 factors is not reviewable on appeal. What's more, on the record weighing will lead to fully thought out and hence better decisions by the trial courts.

State v. Ruiz, http://www.isc.idaho.gov/opinions/Ruiz%2036514.pdf

In State v. Moore, the Court held that the district court did not have authority in a criminal case to direct the Idaho Department of Correction to return a presentence investigation report.

Moore filed a post-conviction petition under Estrada v. State and got his sentence vacated. Before the resentencing, Moore asked the district court to order the IDOC to return its copy of the first PSI to keep it from being taken into account when Moore was considered for parole. The district court denied the request holding that it did not have the authority to do so.

The Supreme Court agreed. It noted that while IC § 20-237 requires that "a copy of the presentence investigation report, if any, . . . shall be delivered into the custody of the director[,]" it does not "grant the court authority to demand the return of a PSI." In response to the argument that the Court Rules gave the district court authority, the Court stated that the separation of powers clause of the Idaho Constitution (Article II, § 1), would prohibit the Court from directing the IDOC, who was not a party to the case, to take an action under a Court Rule. "This Court has no authority to determine the Department's record retention policies." Thus, it held that the district court did not err.

The Court went on to note, however, that "[i]f Moore contends that the Department's consideration of some of the information would violate his Fifth Amendment Rights, he can address that matter with the Department."

State v. Moore, http://www.isc.idaho.gov/opinions/Moore%2036578.pdf

We'll put up a post on the third criminal case later today. In the meantime, here's a link:
State v. Ciccone, http://www.isc.idaho.gov/opinions/Ciccone%2036877.pdf

1 comment:

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