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State of Idaho v. Ronald John Huntsman

December 2, 2008


Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Joel D. Horton, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Walters, Judge Pro Tem

2008 Opinion No. 99

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

Judgment of conviction for first degree murder, using a firearm in the commission of a murder and two counts of second degree kidnapping, affirmed.

Ronald John Huntsman, Sr., appeals from his conviction for first degree murder, using a firearm in the commission of the murder, and two counts of second degree kidnapping. We affirm.


The evidence presented at trial was that in March 2005, Huntsman and Larry Hanslovan kidnapped Kyle Quinton and Becky Boden and took them to Barbara Dehl's residence, where the three bound Quinton and Boden with packing tape, beat them, and questioned them about jewelry that Dehl claimed was missing from a safe in her house. During the incident, someone implicated John Schmeichel in the theft of the jewelry. Hanslovan and Huntsman then released Quinton from the restraints and took him to find Schmeichel.

When the parties arrived at the residence where Schmeichel was staying, Hanslovan and Huntsman confronted him about the allegedly stolen property. Subsequently, Schmeichel left with them in Hanslovan's vehicle. While they were driving back to Dehl's residence, Huntsman turned around from his position in the front passenger seat and shot Schmeichel in the face with a .38 caliber revolver, killing him. When they reached Dehl's residence, Hanslovan and Huntsman enlisted Quinton's help in removing the body from the vehicle and wrapping it in trash bags and a tarp. A day or two later, Huntsman and Hanslovan drove to Elmore County where they and two other individuals dug a shallow grave and buried Schmeichel's body.

A grand jury indicted Huntsman on one count of first degree murder with a sentence enhancement for using a firearm in the commission of the murder, and two counts of kidnapping. In the same indictment, Hanslovan was charged with two counts of kidnapping with firearm enhancements, and one count of trafficking in methamphetamine, and Dehl was charged with two counts of kidnapping and one count of trafficking in methamphetamine. After the court denied the defendants' motions for separate trials, but did allow the drug charges to be severed, Huntsman and his co-defendants pled not guilty and trial was scheduled to begin on October 11, 2005.

At a hearing on September 30, 2005, Dehl and Hanslovan moved to reschedule the trial for the purposes of continuing their investigation, and they waived their speedy trial rights. The state joined in the motion, advising the court that the previous day, one of its witnesses had turned over what was believed to be the murder weapon. The state requested that the trial be rescheduled to provide the parties the opportunity to investigate and test this newly discovered evidence. Huntsman, however, objected to the continuance and declined to waive his right to a speedy trial. The court granted the motion to continue as to Dehl and Hanslovan, but denied the state's request in regard to Huntsman, deciding that there was not good cause to continue the trial in light of Huntsman's assertion of his statutory speedy trial rights.

On October 6, the state filed a motion to dismiss the charges against Huntsman without prejudice. After a hearing, the court granted the motion. Several days later, a second indictment was filed charging Huntsman with the same charges as he had initially faced. The state then moved to consolidate his case with those of Hanslovan and Dehl. Huntsman opposed the motion, but it was granted by the court. Trial was scheduled to begin on April 10, 2006--almost six months after the second indictment had been filed.

In January 2006, Huntsman filed a motion to dismiss, claiming that his state and federal constitutional rights to a speedy trial had been intentionally violated when the prosecution dismissed and re-filed the identical charges. The district court never ruled on the motion and trial proceeded as scheduled--against Huntsman alone as his co-defendants negotiated plea bargains.

After a ten-day trial, the jury found Huntsman guilty as charged. The district court entered a judgment of conviction and imposed a unified life sentence with thirty years determinate for the first degree murder conviction and firearm enhancement, and a concurrent unified sentence of twenty years with ten years determinate for the kidnapping conviction. Huntsman now appeals.


A. Jurisdiction on Appeal

The state argues that this Court is without jurisdiction to consider Huntsman's claims that relate to the initial case that was dismissed without prejudice by the district court, because Huntsman did not file a timely notice of appeal from the order of dismissal entered in the initial case. Specifically, the state argues that this Court cannot address Huntsman's contentions that the district court erred by granting the state's motion to dismiss, that the dismissal without prejudice resulted in a violation of his due process rights, and that the district court judge showed partiality by suggesting to the prosecution that it could simply dismiss and re-file the charges against Huntsman.

A question of subject matter jurisdiction is fundamental and a matter of law; it cannot be ignored when brought to our attention and should be addressed prior to considering the merits of an appeal. State v. Kavajecz, 139 Idaho 482, 483, 80 P.3d 1083, 1084 (2003); State v. Savage, 145 Idaho 756, 758, 185 P.3d 268, 270 (Ct. App. 2008).

Idaho Appellate Rule 14 requires that an appeal as a matter of right from a judgment or final order of the district court in any criminal action must be filed within forty-two days from the filing of the order being appealed. Pursuant to I.A.R. 11(c)(3), an order granting a motion to dismiss an information is an order appealable as a matter of right. In addition, I.A.R. 11(c)(4) provides that "[a]ny order or judgment, whenever entered and however denominated, terminating a criminal action" is appealable as a matter of right. A timely notice of appeal is a prerequisite for an appellate court to have jurisdiction to review a case. I.A.R. 21; State v. Payan, 128 Idaho 866, 867, 920 P.2d 82, 83 (Ct. App. 1996).

Here, acting on the state's motion, the district court dismissed the prosecution against Huntsman without prejudice in case number H0500555 on October 7, 2005, but Huntsman did not file a notice of appeal until July 5, 2006, after the second case had been adjudicated. Huntsman initially argues that the order dismissing the charges did not dismiss an information as encompassed by I.A.R. 11(c)(3) since he was charged by indictment and that under I.A.R. 11(c)(4), the dismissal was not an order "terminating" the criminal action against him since the charges were re-filed. Specifically, he argues that the initial case did not terminate upon the grant of the state's motion to dismiss because it was "at least in part resurrected and became part of the second [case]." Huntsman offers no authority for this assertion, however, and we conclude that it is simply not tenable. Common sense dictates that the granting of a motion to dismiss does, indeed, "terminate" a criminal action regardless of the prosecution's subjective intent to re-file the charges--in such a circumstance a defendant is no longer facing ...

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