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State of Idaho v. Justin Bradley Davis

December 15, 2011


Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Deborah A. Bail, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gutierrez, Judge

2011 Opinion No. 75

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

Judgment of conviction for attempted strangulation, affirmed.

Justin Bradley Davis appeals from his judgment of conviction for attempted strangulation entered pursuant to his conditional guilty plea. Specifically, Davis contends the district court erred in denying his motion to dismiss the information upon which he was charged. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.



The Boise City Police Department received an anonymous tip that Kristy Robinson had been beaten by her then-boyfriend, Davis. Detective Brechwald, who investigated the tip, first contacted Robinson to confirm she was the victim of the reported domestic abuse and later conducted a videotaped interview with Robinson. In the interview, Robinson acknowledged her previous relationship with Davis, gave a thorough account of his abuse, and detailed events leading up to and including the attempted strangulation. Detective Brechwald then interviewed Davis about the situation. Davis disclosed he had dated Robinson, but initially denied any physical abuse. As the discussion continued, though, Davis made incriminating statements, which included an admission that he had grabbed Robinson's neck and possibly hurt her. Based on both interviews, the prosecuting attorney filed a criminal complaint against Davis alleging felony attempted strangulation.

At the preliminary hearing on the complaint, the State called Detective Brechwald to testify regarding Davis's confession and then rested. Davis moved to dismiss the complaint because the only evidence presented was the uncorroborated confession by Davis himself. In response, the State attempted to introduce additional evidence by questioning Detective Brechwald about his videotaped interview with Robinson. Davis objected on hearsay grounds, which the court sustained. Detective Brechwald then testified that shortly after his videotaped interview with Robinson a drunk driver hit Robinson, and as a result, she had no recollection of the attempted strangulation incident or the videotaped interview with the police. Robinson was called to the stand and testified to the same. After recalling Detective Brechwald, the State attempted to introduce his police report and to revisit questioning regarding the interview, but the magistrate required the State to produce the actual videotape. The State retrieved the videotape and played it for the magistrate, who nonetheless declined to admit the videotape into evidence without Robinson's medical records showing the memory impairment. However, the magistrate reconsidered and without formally admitting the tape into evidence, found it did corroborate the testimony of Detective Brechwald. Together, the videotape and the testimony established probable cause to sustain the complaint. The magistrate bound Davis over to the district court.

In district court, Davis moved to dismiss the information charging one count of attempted strangulation, Idaho Code § 18-923, arguing a lack of probable cause at the preliminary hearing. He asserted that consideration of the videotape violated his Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses under Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004) because Robinson's interview was testimonial, she was "unavailable" as a witness, and Davis did not have a prior opportunity to cross-examine her. Assuming the videotape was, therefore, improperly considered, the only evidence on which the information rested was the testimony of Detective Brechwald relating to Davis's own incriminating statements. Davis argued the principle of corpus delicti, prohibiting conviction based solely on a defendant's own confession, required dismissal of the information on the basis of insufficient evidence. The district court denied the motion, finding that although the videotape was testimonial, Robinson was an available witness.

Davis entered a conditional guilty plea, reserving his right to appeal the district court's denial of his motion to dismiss the information. Davis appeals and we now consider whether the district court's decision was in error.



A. Standard of ...

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