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State v. Blake

Court of Appeals of Idaho

October 5, 2016

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
KATHRYN LAURA BLAKE, Defendant-Appellant.

         2016 Opinion No. 63

         Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Steven J. Hippler, District Judge.

         Judgment of conviction for conspiracy to commit grand theft by extortion, affirmed.

          Nevin, Benjamin, McKay & Bartlett, LLP; Deborah A. Whipple, Boise, for appellant. Dennis Benjamin argued.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Kenneth K. Jorgensen, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent. Kenneth K. Jorgensen argued.

          WALTERS, Judge Pro Tem.

         Kathryn Laura Blake appeals from her judgment of conviction for conspiracy to commit grand theft by extortion, Idaho Code §§ 18-1701, 18-2403(2)(b)(e)(1)(9), 18-2407(1)(a)(1). Blake specifically argues the district court abused its discretion in denying Blake's motion for relief from prejudicial joinder because prejudice resulted from both inadmissible evidence used against her at trial and the district court's failure to give a limiting instruction regarding that evidence. For the reasons explained below, we affirm.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         A grand jury indicted Blake for grand theft by extortion and conspiracy to commit grand theft by extortion after she collected payment from a confidential informant for a debt owed to a drug dealer. The district court consolidated Blake's case with her co-conspirator's case, reasoning that the facts, evidence, and witnesses were the same in each case. Blake joined her co-conspirator's motion for relief from prejudicial joinder. Blake argued she would be prejudiced by inadmissible evidence of her co-conspirator's statements to a detective in which the co-conspirator discussed the detective's investigation of the drug dealer. Additionally, Blake maintains that evidence pertaining to the allegedly dangerous drug dealer and evidence concerning the confidential informant were inadmissible. At a hearing on the motion for relief from prejudicial joinder, the detective testified through an offer of proof, stating that the co-conspirator's statements were made in furtherance of a conspiracy. The district court then denied the motion, noting that any potential prejudice could be eliminated or limited through limiting instructions or other remedies, if necessary, and that the benefits of a joint trial outweighed any concerns raised. The jury returned a verdict of guilty on the conspiracy count but was unable to reach a verdict on the grand theft count. Blake appeals from her conviction.

         II. ANALYSIS

         Blake argues the district court abused its discretion in denying her motion for relief from prejudicial joinder. Idaho Criminal Rule 8(b) provides that "two (2) or more defendants may be charged on the same complaint, indictment or information if they are alleged to have participated in the same act or transaction or in the same series of acts or transactions constituting an offense or offenses." Actions properly joined under Idaho Criminal Rule 8(b) may be severed under Idaho Criminal Rule 14, which governs relief from prejudicial joinder, if it appears that a joint trial would be prejudicial. State v. Caudill, 109 Idaho 222, 226, 706 P.2d 456, 460 (1985); State v. Gamble, 146 Idaho 331, 337, 193 P.3d 878, 884 (Ct. App. 2008). The defendant has the burden of showing such prejudice. Caudill, 109 Idaho at 226, 706 P.2d at 460; Gamble, 146 Idaho at 337, 193 P.3d at 884.

         A motion to sever is directed to the trial court's discretion, and this Court will not overturn a denial of the motion unless the trial court has abused its discretion. State v. Tankovich, 155 Idaho 221, 227, 307 P.3d 1247, 1254 (Ct. App. 2013). When a trial court's discretionary decision is reviewed on appeal, the appellate court conducts a multi-tiered inquiry to determine whether the lower court correctly perceived the issue as one of discretion, acted within the boundaries of such discretion and consistently with any legal standards applicable to the specific choices before it, and reached its decision by an exercise of reason. State v. Hedger, 115 Idaho 598, 600, 768 P.2d 1331, 1333 (1989). When reviewing an order denying a severance motion, the inquiry on appeal is whether the defendant has presented facts demonstrating that unfair prejudice resulted from a joint trial. Tankovich, 155 Idaho at 227, 307 P.3d at 1254.

         Here, during a hearing for Blake's motion for relief from prejudicial joinder, the district court denied the motion and noted that "an appropriate and fair trial can be accomplished in a joint trial, " and "the benefits of a joint trial in light of the allegations of conspiracy, as well as the need for the same witnesses and evidence, outweighs any concerns raised." The district court further indicated that any prejudice could, if necessary, be eliminated or limited through a limiting instruction or other remedy.

         Blake maintains that unfair prejudice resulted from both the inadmissible evidence used against her and the failure of the district court to give a limiting instruction. Blake argues the co-conspirator's statements to the detective were inadmissible. Specifically, the co-conspirator informed the detective that the drug dealer told the co-conspirator the drug dealer wanted to murder the detective and the confidential informant. The ...


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