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State v. Black

Court of Appeals of Idaho

March 2, 2017

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
JAMES DARNELL BLACK, Defendant-Appellant.

         2017 Opinion No. 19

         Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Melissa Moody, District Judge.

         Sentence vacated and case remanded.

          Eric D. Fredericksen, State Appellate Public Defender; Andrea W. Reynolds, Deputy Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for appellant.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Russell J. Spencer, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent.

          GUTIERREZ, Judge

         James Darnell Black appeals from his judgment of conviction after pleading guilty to criminal possession of a financial transaction card. He argues that the district court erred in denying Black's request for a presentence psychological evaluation and that his sentence is excessive. We remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Following reports of fraudulent use of credit cards, law enforcement officers discovered that Black had obtained credit card information from multiple individuals and used that information to make numerous purchases. The State charged Black with five counts of grand theft by possession of stolen property, Idaho Code §§ 18-2403(4), 18-2407(1), 18-2409, and five counts of criminal possession of a financial transaction card, I.C. §§ 18-3125, 18-3128. The State also filed an information alleging Black was a persistent violator, I.C. § 19-2514.

         Pursuant to a plea agreement, Black pled guilty to one count of criminal possession of a financial transaction card, I.C. §§ 18-3125, 18-3128. In exchange, the State dismissed the remaining charges against Black.

         A presentence investigation (PSI) was then conducted during which an investigator inquired into Black's mental health history. According to the PSI report, Black told the investigator that Black considered his mental health status "serious." He reported to having been previously diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder and to at least one previous suicide attempt. He also stated that he had received treatment for depression and substance abuse, including being admitted to a psychiatric institution. Black expressed that he has experienced feelings of paranoia as well as suicidal ideations, and when asked by the investigator if Black wanted further psychiatric assessment, Black responded affirmatively. Black's mental health history was further illustrated in a letter written by Black's mother, in which she wrote that Black has experienced mental health issues since he was eight years old. Black's aunt also wrote a letter indicating the same. They both attested to Black being treated for auditory hallucinations as a child.

         After his arrest for the current offense, and allegedly while incarcerated elsewhere, Black received mental health treatment from the jail and was prescribed medication for his mental health. Prior to sentencing, an evaluator performed a GAIN[1] assessment on Black at the jail. Black's answers during this assessment suggested the presence of several clinical disorders including bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, recurrent major depressive disorder, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The GAIN evaluator made no specific recommendations as to Black except to state "given current involvement, treatment should be coordinated with: substance abuse treatment; physical health treatment; mental health treatment; legal system involvement." A certified counselor with the Department of Health and Welfare then prepared a mental health examination report pursuant to I.C. § 19-2524. In that report, the counselor acknowledged that Black may have a serious mental illness. In the recommendation section, the report stated that because Black was currently receiving mental health treatment through the jail, no additional mental health treatment or assessments were recommended. The PSI investigator did not make an independent recommendation regarding a formal psychological evaluation.

         Before sentencing, Black filed a pro se motion for a psychological evaluation pursuant to I.C. § 19-2522. In support of his motion, Black argued that his mental condition would be a significant factor at sentencing because he suffers from mild mental retardation, depression, bipolar disorder, paranoia, and anxiety. Black's counsel subsequently filed a motion for a psychological evaluation, stating: "Defendant alleges his mental health will be a significant factor at sentencing. An issue to be addressed is to what extent if any the Defendant has the ability to control his impulses." The district court acknowledged only the motion filed by counsel and denied the request, stating: "The Court has no reason to believe that the Defendant's mental condition will be a significant factor at sentencing. In addition, good cause has not been shown."

         At sentencing, the court imposed a sentence of five years determinate and ordered restitution in the amount of $934. The court did not state any of the factors it relied upon in fashioning its sentence. Black then filed an Idaho Criminal Rule 35 motion for reduction of sentence, which the district court denied. Black also filed a motion for credit for time served pursuant to I.C. § 18-309. The district court granted the motion and entered an amended judgment and sentence, correcting the credit for time served. Black now appeals, contending ...


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