Appeal from the District Court of the First Judicial District, State of Idaho, Kootenai County. Hon. Fred M. Gibler, District Judge.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lansing, Judge
Order denying motion for mistrial, affirmed.
Daniel Ray Keyes, II appeals from his conviction for first degree arson, Idaho Code § 18- 802. He contends that the district court erred by denying his motion for a mistrial. We affirm.
Keyes was charged with intentionally setting fire to a rented residence that he shared, until the day of the fire, with his former girlfriend. At trial, the prosecutor asked a deputy fire chief his expert opinion of the origin of the fire. Instead of responding to the question asked, the witness answered: "It's an incendiary fire. The fire was deliberately set by the defendant."
Defense counsel objected and moved for a mistrial. The district court sustained the objection and immediately gave a corrective instruction to the jury, but denied the motion for a mistrial. In this appeal, Keyes asserts error in the denial of his mistrial motion.
Testimony presenting an opinion that the defendant is the perpetrator of a charged crime is generally inadmissible. State v. Walters, 120 Idaho 46, 55, 57, 813 P.2d 857, 866, 868 (1990); State v. Hester, 114 Idaho 688, 692-96, 760 P.2d 27, 31-35 (1988); State v. Barnes, 147 Idaho 587, 598, 212 P.3d 1017, 1028 (Ct. App. 2009). As our Supreme Court said in Walters, to "allow an expert on the cause of fires to weigh the evidence and testify as to who he believes is guilty of the crime of arson, . . . would be allowing the 'expert' to leave the realm of his expertise and invade the province of the jury." Walters, 120 Idaho at 57, 13 P.2d at 868 (Boyle, J., concurring).*fn1 Thus, the district court here properly sustained the defense objection. Keyes argues, however, that in addition to sustaining his objection, the district court should have granted his motion for a mistrial. He asserts that the deputy fire chief's testimony so infected the proceedings that the only sufficient remedy was a mistrial.
Idaho Criminal Rule 29.1(a) provides, in part: "A mistrial may be declared upon motion of the defendant, when there occurs during the trial an error or legal defect in the proceedings, or conduct inside or outside the courtroom, which is prejudicial to the defendant and deprives the defendant of a fair trial." When reviewing the denial of a motion for a mistrial, we do not examine whether the trial court reasonably exercised its discretion in light of circumstances existing when the mistrial motion was made.
Rather, the question must be whether the event which precipitated the motion for mistrial represented reversible error when viewed in the context of the full record. Thus, where a motion for mistrial has been denied in a criminal case, the "abuse of discretion" standard is a misnomer. The standard, more accurately stated, is one of reversible error. Our focus is upon the continuing impact on the trial of the incident that triggered the mistrial motion. The trial judge's ...