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State v. Clinton

Supreme Court of Idaho, Boise

October 2, 2013

STATE of Idaho, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
Joseph Richard CLINTON, Defendant-Appellant.

Page 284

Shawn F. Wilkerson, Deputy State Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for appellant.

Jason M. Gray, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent.

EISMANN, Justice.

This is an appeal out of Ada County contending that the district court erred in failing to order a mental health evaluation for a child molester prior to sentencing and abused its discretion in sentencing the defendant to prison. We affirm the judgment of the district court.

I.

Factual Background.

Joseph Richard Clinton was indicted for the felony crime of lewd conduct with a minor under sixteen years of age. Although he was initially found incompetent to stand trial, he was determined to be competent after a reassessment. He pleaded guilty to the charge, and he underwent a psychosexual evaluation prior to sentencing. He did not request an evaluation of his mental condition pursuant to Idaho Code section 19-2522, nor did the district court sua sponte order one. The court sentenced him to serve twenty years in the custody of the Idaho Board of Correction, with three years of the sentence fixed and the remainder indeterminate. Clinton filed a motion for reduction of his sentence pursuant to Idaho Criminal Rule 35, which the court denied. Clinton then timely appealed.

His appeal was first heard by the Idaho Court of Appeals. He contended that the district court erred in failing to sua sponte order a mental health evaluation and that it abused its discretion in imposing the sentence. The Court of Appeals affirmed the sentence. In doing so, it held that a trial court's unobjected to failure to order a mental examination prior to sentencing would be reviewed under a manifest disregard standard rather than the fundamental error standard announced by this Court in State v. Perry, 150 Idaho 209, 245 P.3d 961 (2010). The State filed a petition for review regarding that issue, and we granted the State's petition. In cases that come before this Court on a petition for review of a Court of Appeals decision, we directly review the decision of the lower court as if the appeal initially had come directly to this Court. State v. Suriner, 154 Idaho 81, 83, 294 P.3d 1093, 1095 (2013).[1]

Page 285

II.

Did the District Court Err in Failing to Sua Sponte Order a Mental Evaluation?

Idaho Code section 19-2522(1) provides that " [i]f there is reason to believe the mental condition of the defendant will be a significant factor at sentencing and for good cause shown, the court shall appoint at least one (1) psychiatrist or licensed psychologist to examine and report upon the mental condition of the defendant." Clinton did not request a mental health evaluation prior to his sentencing, and did not object to the failure to have that evaluation. Because the district court's failure to sua sponte order the evaluation did not violate a constitutional right, it does not constitute a fundamental error that is reviewable on appeal. State v. Carter, 155 Idaho 170, 307 P.3d 187 (2013).

III.

Did the District Court Abuse Its Discretion In Imposing the ...


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