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State v. Hall

Supreme Court of Idaho

November 1, 2016

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
ROBERT DEAN HALL, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District of the State of Idaho, in and for Ada County. Hon. Michael R. McLaughlin, District Judge.

         The judgment of the district court is affirmed.

          Jason Pintler, Deputy State Appellate Public Defender, Boise, argued for Appellant.

          Lori A. Fleming, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, argued for Respondent.

          EISMANN, JUSTICE.

         This is an appeal out of Ada County from a judgment of conviction for the crime of murder in the second degree. The primary issue on appeal is whether the district court properly instructed the jury on the issue of self-defense. We hold that the district court did and affirm the judgment of conviction.

         I. Factual Background.

         In September 2010, Kandi Hall ("Kandi") was unemployed, having been fired by the law firm where she had worked, and she wanted another paralegal job. Emmett Corrigan ("Emmett") was waiting to learn the results of the bar exam he had taken and wanted to hire a paralegal to work for him when he began practicing law. They were introduced by a mutual friend. Kandi and Emmett were immediately attracted to each other, and within two weeks they began having a sexual relationship. Emmett passed the bar exam, and he hired Kandi in November 2010 to work for him in the law office he had opened. Their torrid sexual relationship continued, including having sexual intercourse in the law office, until March 11, 2012, when Kandi's husband, Robert Dean Hall ("Rob"), shot and killed Emmett in the parking lot of a pharmacy. A jury found Rob guilty of murder in the second degree. Kandi testified at trial that she always loved her husband, never intended to leave him, and was committed to their marriage.

         On March 11, 2012, Kandi had left work at about 6:00 p.m., and upon arriving home she had discovered that Rob was in the garage packing large boxes. He told her that he had had it with the way she had been so nonresponsive to their relationship the last few months. As they continued their discussion, she admitted to having an affair with an attorney in Oregon, but she later recanted that statement. He left their house at about 8:45 p.m., and she left shortly thereafter. As she was backing out of their driveway, she had a phone conversation with Emmett. She told him she was going to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription, and he stated that he would meet her there.

         On March 11, 2012, Emmett had left work sometime after Kandi did. When he arrived at home, his wife confronted him about their marital problems. He responded by becoming angry. At some point, he had the telephone conversation with Kandi Hall. He told her he would meet her at the pharmacy parking lot. He then told his wife that he had to go pick up a prescription and left.

         After Kandi had picked up her prescription, she got into Emmett's pickup. After stopping for gas, he began driving around. He ultimately parked in a subdivision being developed, where they had sexual intercourse for the second time that day. Kandi then received a call from her older daughter, who wondered where she was. The daughter had seen Kandi's car in the pharmacy parking lot and had called Kandi, but Kandi had not answered the call. She had then called Rob to ask where Kandi was. Kandi told her daughter that she was just driving around with a female friend.

         As Emmett was driving back to the pharmacy parking lot, Kandi received a call from Rob. Emmett grabbed her phone and asked Rob, "What's up chief?" Kandi described Emmett's tone of voice as being aggressive. Kandi could only hear Emmett's side of the conversation. He said to Rob: "Yeah, we're talking about life. Have you got a problem with that?" Kandi described Emmett's tone of voice as being derogatory, derisive, and challenging. Rob apparently responded, and Emmett said to him, "Yeah, I'm going to crack your f***ing head." Kandi described Emmett's tone of voice as being threatening. Emmett then said, "Just wait there. We'll be right there." Kandi described Emmett's tone of voice as being aggressive.

         Emmett drove into the pharmacy parking lot shortly after 10:00 p.m. He parked, he and Kandi got out of Emmett's pickup, and Rob got out of his pickup. Rob had a compact, .380 ACP caliber pistol with a laser sight. Rob was dressed in sweat pants and a black, pull-over hoodie with a kangaroo pocket. Before getting out of his pickup, Rob had removed the pistol from the holster in which he carried it in the pickup, left the holster there, and put the pistol in the kangaroo pocket of his hoodie.

         Kandi was the only witness to what then occurred. Prior to the trial, she gave accounts of what had occurred that differed from her trial testimony. During the final jury instruction conference, the district court discussed its jury instruction regarding the use of such pretrial statements. When doing so, the court stated, "Frankly, in my many years as a judge, I don't know that I've seen a witness to a case who has made so many conflicting statements and/or the level of impeachment." In ruling on Rob's motion for a new trial, the district court again stated with respect to Kandi's credibility:

Frankly, any testimony by Ms. Hall, in my 31 years on the bench I don't think I've seen a witness more thoroughly discredited in the course of a proceeding. And the jury had a right to not consider that as evidence, that when she testified at the trial and said there was a very strong push, that she turned around, she heard some kind of grunting noises and then the firearm was discharged. They could have chosen to completely ignore that.

         However, the central issue on appeal concerns whether the facts justified a particular instruction on self-defense, and therefore we will state the facts in a manner most favorable to Rob, which is Kandi's trial testimony.

         She testified that after everyone was out of their respective vehicles, Emmett was standing against his pickup, leaning backward against it with his arms crossed, and Rob walked over to where Emmett and Kandi were, but he and Rob were "pretty far apart." Rob asked, "What's going on?" and Emmett answered, "She doesn't want to be with you, Rob." Rob looked at Emmett and asked, "She wants to be with you?" Emmett then made statements intended to insult Rob and to incite him to fight, concluding with, "She doesn't want to be with you." Rob looked at Kandi and said, "But you want to be-he has got five kids, Kandi." He then looked at Emmett and stated, "And your poor wife, she just had a baby, and she is at home while you're out with my wife." Emmett then lunged forward and pushed Rob in the chest with both hands, but not forcefully enough to make him fall. Kandi stepped between them, told Emmett to get in his pickup, told Rob they had to leave because their daughter called, turned around, and was walking toward her car when she heard scuffling on the ground behind her. She then heard three gunshots. She turned around and saw Rob standing with blood running down his face. He had his pistol in his right hand, and he then collapsed, dropping the pistol. She later saw Emmett lying on the ground.

         Rob had a grazing bullet wound on the top left side of his head. According to expert medical testimony, although the bullet did not penetrate or fracture the skull, it caused a traumatic brain injury, a moderate concussion. As a result, he suffered retrograde amnesia and cannot recall what occurred. He did not testify at the trial, although statements he made to the police shortly after the incident were admitted.

         Emmett had two gunshot wounds, one to the chest and one to the head. The bullet that hit his chest passed through his sternum at the level of the fifth rib, through the right ventricle of his heart, through the middle lobe of his left lung, and impacted his spinal column at the level of the tenth thoracic vertebrae. It entered the bone, but did not hit the spinal cord. However, the force transmitted to the spinal cord by the bullet impact would have cut off all electrical impulses below the point of impact, and he would not have been able to move anything below that point. He would have dropped to the ground as quickly as gravity could pull him down. From an abrasion that he suffered on the right side of his forehead, it appears that he pitched forward when he fell, hitting his head. This wound was fatal, but not immediately. The bullet that hit his head entered his skull just inside the hairline of his upper right forehead, traveled in a slight downward and leftward direction through the entire right side of his brain, and ended at the bottom part of his brain on the right side. It too was a fatal wound, but not immediately. After being shot, he could have lived for a short period of time.

         The appeal was initially heard by the Idaho Court of Appeals, which upheld the judgment of the district court. We then granted Rob's petition for review. In cases that come before this Court on a petition for review of a decision of the Court of Appeals, we do not review the decision of the Court of Appeals. State v. Suriner, 154 Idaho 81, 83, 294 P.3d 1093, 1095 (2013). We hear the case anew as if the appeal had initially come directly to this Court. Id.

         II.

         Did the District Court Err in Instructing the Jury on Self Defense?

         The law relevant to self-defense in a homicide case is set forth in Idaho Code sections 18-4009 and 18-4010. The applicable portions of section 18-4009 and section 18-4010 are as follows:

         Idaho Code section 18-4009:

Homicide is also justifiable when committed by any person in either of the following cases:
1. When resisting any attempt to murder any person, or to commit a felony, or to do some great bodily injury upon any person; or,
2. When committed in defense of . . . person, against one who manifestly intends or endeavors, by violence or surprise, to commit a felony . . .; or,
3. When committed in the lawful defense of such person . . . when there is reasonable ground to apprehend a design . . . to do some great bodily injury, and imminent danger of such design being accomplished . . .;

         Idaho Code section 18-4010:

A bare fear of the commission of any of the offenses mentioned in subdivisions 2 and 3 of the preceding section, to prevent which homicide may be lawfully committed, is not sufficient to justify it. But the circumstances must be sufficient to excite the fears of a reasonable person, and the party killing must have acted under the influence of such fears alone.

         The issue is the failure of the district court to instruct the jury regarding subsection (1) of Idaho Code section 18-4009. The reason it is an issue is that Idaho Code section 18-4010 does not apply to that subsection, so there is no requirement that "the circumstances must be sufficient to excite the fears of a reasonable person, and the party killing must have acted under the influence of such fears alone."

         On October 4, 2012, the defense filed its proposed jury instructions and a memorandum supporting the proposed instructions. The proposed jury instructions included an instruction on justifiable homicide that was based upon subsections (1), (2), and (3) of Idaho Code section 18-4009.[1] In the accompanying memorandum, the defense argued that the jury instruction based upon section 18-4009(1) was supported by Kandi's testimony that Emmett made statements enticing Rob to fight and that he pushed Rob in the chest with both hands prior to being killed.

         The defense also argued in the memorandum that an excusable homicide instruction should be given as defined in Idaho Code section 18-4012 based upon anticipated evidence showing that the shooting was accidental. Excusable homicide is one committed by accident or misfortune under the circumstances described in the statute.[2]

         The district court did not instruct the jury regarding self-defense as set forth in subsection (1) of Idaho Code section 18-4009. The court's instruction, which was based upon Idaho Criminal Jury Instruction No. 1517, stated as follows:

A homicide is justifiable if the defendant was acting in self-defense.
In order to find that the defendant acted in self-defense, all of the following conditions must be found to have been in existence at the time of the killing:
1.The defendant must have believed that the defendant was in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm.
2. In addition to that belief, the defendant must have believed that the action the defendant took was necessary to save the defendant from the danger presented.
3.The circumstances must have been such that a reasonable person, under similar circumstances, would have believed that the defendant was in imminent danger of death or great bodily injury and believed that the action taken was necessary.
4.The defendant must have acted only in response to that danger and not for some other motivation.
5.When there is no longer any reasonable appearance of danger, the right of self-defense ends.
In deciding upon the reasonableness of the defendant's beliefs, you should determine what an ordinary and reasonable person might have concluded from all the facts and circumstances which the evidence shows existed at that time, and not with the benefit of hindsight.
The danger must have been present and imminent, or must have so appeared to a reasonable person under the circumstances. A bare fear of death or great bodily injury is not sufficient to justify a homicide. The defendant must have acted under the influence of fears that only a reasonable person would have had in a similar position.

         Rob contends on appeal that the failure to instruct on self-defense as set forth in subsection (1) of Idaho Code section 18-4009 requires that his judgment of conviction be vacated and that he be granted a new trial.

         Rob did not object to the failure to instruct the jury regarding self-defense as set forth in Idaho Code section 18-4009(1).

         Rule 30(b) of the Idaho Rules of Criminal Procedure requires the trial court to inform counsel of the court's proposed actions with respect to requested instructions and to give the parties an opportunity to "make objections outside the presence of the jury to such instructions or the failure to give requested instructions." Id. The rule also states, "No party may assign as error the giving of or failure to give an instruction unless the party objects thereto before the jury retires to consider its verdict, stating distinctly the instruction to which the party objects and the grounds of the objection."

         The presentation of evidence began on October 10, 2012, and the State rested during the afternoon of October 19, 2012. After the jury was dismissed for the day, the district court held a conference to discuss its proposed jury instructions. The court began by stating: "We're just going to go over proposed jury instructions a little bit. Again, it's not our final instructions conference. I've given you a clean copy of the instructions." At the conclusion of this conference, the court asked both sides if they had any additional instructions. Defense counsel Mr. Chastain asked if the court was denying the defense's justifiable homicide instruction, and the court stated it would take a look at it. The exchange was as follows:

THE COURT: Now, did the state have any other proposed instructions other than
[IDJI] 318 as noted earlier by Ms. Lorello?
MS. LORELLO: No, Your Honor.
THE COURT: No additional instructions? Defense?
MR. CHASTAIN: Your Honor, I think we had made a request as to justifiable or excusable homicide in our request. Is the court declining to give those?
THE COURT: Well, now, let's take a look at the instruction on self-defense.
That's Instruction 30: "A homicide is justifiable if the defendant was acting in self-defense." You're saying you want the additional instruction on justifiable homicide?
MR. CHASTAIN: I believe we requested it. I didn't bring that with me.
THE COURT: I'll take a look at that. I'll take a look at that.

         The parties concluded their presentation of evidence during the mid-morning of October 23, 2012. After the jury was dismissed for the day, the district court had another jury instruction conference. During the conference, the court brought up its excusable homicide instruction, which was proposed instruction No. 36. The court read the instruction as follows:

Under the law, homicide is justifiable if any one of the following circumstances occur: the homicide was committed while resisting an attempt to do great bodily injury to the defendant; or the homicide was committed in defending oneself against one who manifestly intends or endeavors, by violence or surprise, to commit a felony.
However, the bare fear of such acts is not sufficient unless the circumstances are sufficient to create such a fear in a reasonable person if the defendant acted under the influence of such fears alone.

         The first paragraph of proposed instruction No. 36 set forth two circumstances in which a homicide was justifiable. The first circumstance was if "the homicide was committed while resisting an attempt to do great bodily injury to the defendant" (based upon subsection (1) of Idaho Code section 18-4009), and the second circumstance was if "the homicide was committed in defending oneself against one who manifestly intends or endeavors, by violence or surprise, to commit a felony" (based upon subsection (2) of Idaho Code section 18-4009). The second paragraph was based upon Idaho Code section 18-4010, but the instruction did not limit the application of the second paragraph to the circumstance that was based upon subsection (2) of Idaho Code section 18-4009. The second paragraph would have erroneously applied to circumstances constituting justifiable homicide in the first paragraph.[3] The court also had a separate self-defense instruction, which was based upon subsection (3) of Idaho Code section 18-4009.

         After it read aloud proposed instruction No. 36, the court noted that the State had objected that this instruction was duplicative of the court's self-defense instruction, which was proposed instruction No. 38. Defense counsel Ms. Kristal did not make any objection to proposed instruction No. 36. Instead, she stated that the court also needed to give an instruction on excusable homicide. She explained the need for an instruction on excusable homicide as follows:

MS. KRISTAL: Which is also why we think the court needs to give the excusable homicide because it's clear that Mr. Hall doesn't know what happened. He only knows that he was in a fight and he got shot. The wife's boss shot him. The jury has to decide whether the shooting was accidental. Was it self-defense or was it, as the state says, that he was lying in wait and murdered Mr. Corrigan?
We think that all of the evidence the jury has heard permits all of those instructions. Therefore, we would request that the judge continue to give excusable and justifiable and a self-defense instruction.

         The court responded by explaining why it thought proposed instruction ...


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