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State v. Rodriguez

Court of Appeals of Idaho

December 12, 2016

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
ENRIQUE LOMELI RODRIGUEZ, Defendant-Appellant.

         2016 Opinion No. 82

         Appeal from the District Court of the Third Judicial District, State of Idaho, Canyon County. Hon. George A. Southworth, District Judge.

         Judgment of conviction for witness intimidation, solicitation to commit witness intimidation, and violation of a no-contact order, affirmed.

          Eric D. Fredericksen, State Appellate Public Defender; Sally J. Cooley, Deputy Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for appellant.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Theodore S. Tollefson, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent.

          GUTIERREZ, Judge

         Enrique Lomeli Rodriguez appeals from his judgment of conviction, following a jury trial, for witness intimidation, solicitation to commit witness intimidation, and violation of a no-contact order. Specifically, Rodriguez argues the district court erred in excluding audio of recorded telephone calls between Rodriguez and his girlfriend, but instead permitted translated transcripts of the calls to be read aloud to the jury. We affirm.

         I.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Rodriguez and his girlfriend were involved in a physical altercation. Police charged Rodriguez with domestic battery in the presence of a child. A no-contact order was entered prohibiting Rodriguez from having any contact with his girlfriend. While in custody on the domestic battery charge, Rodriguez repeatedly telephoned his girlfriend from the jail. These phone conversations were recorded by the jail. During the conversations, both Rodriguez and his girlfriend spoke in Spanish. Rodriguez asked his girlfriend to tell the individuals who witnessed the altercation "not to go to court, " and Rodriguez tried to persuade his girlfriend to get the case dismissed.

         Based upon these recorded conversations, the State charged Rodriguez with witness intimidation, Idaho Code § 18-2604(3); solicitation to commit witness intimidation, I.C § 18-2001; and violation of a no-contact order, I.C. § 18-920. Rodriguez was also charged with domestic battery in the presence of children and domestic assault in the presence of children based upon the altercation. Prior to trial, both the domestic battery and domestic assault charges were dismissed.

         In preparation for trial, the State used a translator to translate the recorded Spanish conversations into English. The trial court held a pretrial hearing to determine the admissibility of the transcripts and to decide whether the translator was required to testify at trial. The State acknowledged that it intended to present the translated transcripts to the jury. Rodriguez, who admitted to having received copies of the audio recordings and corresponding translated transcripts, did not challenge the accuracy of the translation. He did, however, object to the court admitting the transcripts without requiring the State to lay a proper foundation through the testimony of the translator, who would not be available to testify at trial. To address Rodriguez's concern, the court held a pretrial hearing to allow the State an opportunity to lay a foundation for the translated transcripts. At the conclusion of the hearing, the court ruled the State had laid a sufficient foundation as to the translated transcripts, but the State would still be required to lay a sufficient foundation as to the actual phone calls.

         During the jury trial, the State presented evidence of the content of the recorded jail conversations by having two individuals read the translated transcripts aloud to the jury. A male read the part of Rodriguez while a female read the part of Rodriguez's girlfriend. Rodriguez objected to this procedure, stating "we object to [the transcripts] being read to the jury because they're not being able to listen to the audio recording." At no time were the audio recordings played for or made available to the jury.

         At the close of trial, the court instructed the jury to determine what, if any, relevance the transcribed phone calls had and whether the transcriptions were accurate. The jury returned guilty verdicts on all three counts. The court entered ...


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