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State v. Knutsen

Supreme Court of Idaho

January 26, 2015

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent,
DAVID AARON KNUTSEN, Defendant-Appellant

2015 Opinion No. 10

Appeal from the District Court of the Fifth Judicial District of the State of Idaho, in and for Twin Falls County. Hon. G. Richard Bevan, District Judge.

The judgment of the district court is affirmed.

Ben McGreevy, Deputy State Appellate Public Defender, Boise, argued for appellant.

Kenneth K. Jorgensen, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, argued for respondent.

EISMANN, Justice. Chief Justice BURDICK, Justices J. JONES, HORTON, and Justice Pro Tem WALTERS CONCUR.


[158 Idaho 990] EISMANN, Justice.

This is an appeal out of Twin Falls County from a jury verdict finding the defendant guilty of four counts of sexual abuse of a vulnerable adult. The defendant contends that the term of the grand jury that indicted him had already expired, that the statute defining the crimes is unconstitutional, that there was insufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict, and that his conviction should be for only one count because his conduct constituted one continuous act. We affirm the judgment of the district court.


Factual Background.

The victim entered a psychiatric hospital on January 30, 2009, and David Aaron Knutsen (Defendant), who was thirty-one years old, was already at the facility. The victim, who was a twenty-two-year-old woman with a full-scale IQ of 72, had been admitted to the hospital because she was depressed and suicidal. Defendant had checked himself into the hospital for thirty-six hours to have his medication adjusted.

When the victim was admitted into the hospital, she was given hospital scrubs to wear. She went to the TV room to watch television, and Defendant was in the room. After a few minutes she left and returned to her room because the way Defendant was staring at her made her feel uncomfortable. She ate supper in the cafeteria and returned there sometime around 7:00 p.m. for an 8:00 p.m. group session.

There was a hallway between the cafeteria and the nursing station, but the cafeteria had an open door and windows so that most of it could be observed from the nursing station. The victim sat down at a table with her back to the windows, and Defendant came over and sat across the table from her, facing the windows. He asked her if she was still a [158 Idaho 991] virgin, and she answered that she was. He asked her if she was wearing a bra, and she said she was not. He commented about how large her breasts were and asked how big her nipples were. She showed him with her fingers because she was scared and did not know what to do. He asked if he could feel her breasts and moved closer to her. Although she knew that was wrong, she said " Yes" because she was scared. He then felt her breast under her shirt. He was not wearing shoes, and he used his foot to push her legs apart and rub her genitals with his foot. He asked if he could see her vagina, and she testified that she said " Yes" because she was scared out of her mind. While the victim was at the table, Defendant was constantly watching the nursing station through the windows and looking around watching for anyone who may see them. He then took her to another part of the cafeteria near the soda fountain, which could not be seen from the nursing station. She was using a walker to ambulate because she had previously fallen on the ice and broken her ankle. When they arrived at that part of the cafeteria, she was standing with her back to the wall, and he was standing in front of her with the walker between them. He asked her to pull down her pants so that he could see her vagina. She complied, and he then said to pull them up because he was afraid someone would walk in. Near that area, there was a glass door with windows on each side, which provided access to exercise equipment and a small park. After she pulled her pants up, he touched her between the legs and touched her breasts. He also had her touch his penis on the outside of his pants. As the victim was leaving, he told her to wait. When she stopped and turned around, he touched her breasts and vagina again and then told her he was going to " jack off." The victim testified that she did not know what that meant. Defendant left the facility the next day, and after he left the victim reported what had happened to one of the nurses.

On March 25, 2009, a grand jury returned an indictment charging Defendant with four counts of the felony crime of Sexual Abuse of a Vulnerable Adult. The alleged criminal conduct was: touching the victim's genitals with his foot, touching her genitals with his hand, touching her breasts with his hand(s), and having the victim touch his genitals with her hand. He was tried for the offenses before a jury on May 5 and 6, 2010, and it returned a verdict finding him guilty of all four charges. For each of the offenses, the district court sentenced Defendant to twenty-five years in the custody of the Idaho Board of Correction, with eighteen years fixed and the remaining seven years indeterminate. The court ordered that the four sentences be served concurrently, but that they be served consecutively to Defendant's prior sentence for lewd conduct with his seven or eight-year-old cousin. Defendant timely appealed.


Had the Grand Jury's Term Expired Before Returning the Indictment?

Article I, § 8, of the Idaho Constitution provides that " [n]o person shall be held to answer for any felony or criminal offense of any grade, unless on presentment or indictment of a grand jury or on information of the public prosecutor." In this case, Defendant was prosecuted based upon an indictment. He contends that the grand jury's term had expired before it returned the indictment. An indictment issued by a grand jury whose term has expired is void. State v. Lute, 150 Idaho 837, 840, 252 P.3d 1255, 1258 (2011). If the indictment is void, the trial court does not acquire subject-matter jurisdiction over the crimes charged in the indictment. Id. at 841, 252 P.3d at 1259.

Upon the motion of the prosecuting attorney, the district court issued an order on November 13, 2008, for the impaneling of a grand jury. The order stated that " once selected and convened, the grand jury shall serve a term of four months until discharged by the Court, and during its term shall meet from time to time as necessary to conduct its business." The prospective jurors appeared on November 14, 2008, and the court informed them that " [t]his term of the grand jury is set for approximately four months" ; that they would normally be meeting every other Wednesday; and that " the schedule for your four-month term and the dates when [158 Idaho 992] you should be available" were specific days commencing on December 3, 2008, and ending on March 25, 2009. Sixteen jurors were then selected and impaneled as the grand jury. The grand jury met for the first time to inquire into a public offense on December 3, 2008, and it returned the indictment against Defendant on March 25, 2009.

Defendant was arrested on March 27, 2009, and he appeared in court to be arraigned on the indictment on March 30, 2009. The matter was continued at Defendant's request to July 20, 2009, at which time he entered pleas of not guilty to all four charges. On August 21, 2009, Defendant moved to dismiss the indictment on various grounds including that the grand jury's term had expired before it issued the indictment. The district court held that it had not. The court ruled that the order stated that the grand jury's term would be four months " once selected and convened" ; that the grand jury was first convened on December 3, 2008; and that the four-month period from that date had not expired by March 25, 2009.

On appeal, Defendant contends that the grand jury was convened on November 14, 2008, the day the jurors were impaneled, not on December 3, 2008, the day it first met in session to perform its statutory duty as a grand jury of " inquir[ing] into all public offenses committed or triable within the county." I.C. § 19-1101.

The maximum period of time that a grand jury may serve is set by Rule 6.8 of the Idaho Criminal Rules, which provides, " A grand jury shall serve until discharged by the court but no grand jury shall serve more than six (6) months unless specifically ordered by the court which summoned the grand jury." The district court had the authority to establish the term of the grand jury within the confines of Rule 6.8. It ordered that the grand jury's term would be four months " once selected and convened." The court interpreted its order to mean that the grand jury term commenced the first time the grand jury convened to inquire into a public offense (December 3, 2008), which was consistent with what it informed the grand jury regarding ...

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