2015 Opinion No. 15
Appeal from the District Court of the Second Judicial District, State of Idaho, Clearwater County. Hon. Michael J. Griffin, District Judge.
Judgment of conviction for possession of methamphetamine, vacated, and case remanded.
Sara B. Thomas, State Appellate Public Defender; Eric D. Fredericksen, Deputy Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for appellant.
Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Russell J. Spencer, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent.
Gerald K. Umphenour appeals from his conviction for possession of methamphetamine, contending that the district court committed fundamental, structural error by conducting a court trial without first obtaining Umphenour's personal waiver of his constitutional right to a jury trial. We vacate the conviction.
Umphenour was charged with felony possession of methamphetamine, misdemeanor resisting and obstructing an officer, and misdemeanor possession of an open container of alcohol. At a February 19, 2013 pretrial hearing, the parties informed the district court of a plea agreement calling for Umphenour to plead guilty to the felony possession charge and for the State to dismiss the two misdemeanor charges. During the plea colloquy, however, the district court apparently was unsatisfied with Umphenour's responses to its questions and the court declined to accept the guilty plea. Trial was rescheduled for May 22, 2013.
On the morning of May 22, the parties informed the court that they had reached another agreement. The following colloquy then occurred:
THE COURT: Let's go on the record, please. For the record this is File No. CR2012-488. Mr. Umphenour is here in court with Mr. Kovis, his counsel; and Mr. Tyler is representing the State.
Counsel indicated before we came in that you had discussed this case further, and that there was a proposal that the parties stipulate to certain facts, and that the Court make findings based upon those facts. Is that generally what counsel wanted to do?
MR. KOVIS: Yes, Your Honor. I talked with Mr. Umphenour, and I've gone over your proposed jury Instruction No. 2, which had the elements of the possession of a controlled substance elements one, two, three, and four: On or about June 6th; in the State of Idaho; Gerald K. Umphenour possessed any amount of methamphetamine; and four, the defendant either knew it was methamphetamine or believed it was a controlled substance. Mr. Umphenour would stipulate to all of that being true.
THE COURT: Mr. Tyler, is the State also stipulating to those facts?
MR. TYLER: Yes, Your Honor.
THE COURT: Mr. Umphenour, you've had enough time to discuss this with your attorney; is that right?
THE DEFENDANT: Yeah, we talked this morning.
THE COURT: Okay. Well, after talking to him this morning at this time are you stipulating or agreeing that those facts that were just recited by Mr. Kovis are, in fact, true?
THE DEFENDANT: Yeah.
THE COURT: Okay, and has anybody promised you anything, Mr. Umphenour, as far as what would happen if you stipulated to those facts?
THE DEFENDANT: No.
MR. KOVIS: I just want to be clear, I did tell Mr. Umphenour that the two misdemeanor cases would be dismissed. The sentencing would be down the road; that he would not be incarcerated today. It's an open sentencing. We can argue that if he's placed on probation he can apply for unsupervised probation so he can go to North Dakota, or if he's on supervised probation ...