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State v. Stell

Court of Appeals of Idaho

October 5, 2017

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
JAMES PATRICK STELL JR., Defendant-Appellant.

         2017 Opinion No. 50

         Appeal from the District Court of the Third Judicial District, State of Idaho, Canyon County. Hon. Christopher S. Nye, District Judge.

         Judgment of conviction for aggravated assault, with a deadly weapon enhancement; malicious injury to property; possession of drug paraphernalia; and carrying a concealed weapon while under the influence, affirmed.

          Eric D. Fredericksen, State Appellate Public Defender; Jenny C. Swinford, Deputy Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for appellant. Jenny C. Swinford argued.

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

          GUTIERREZ, Judge

         James Patrick Stell Jr. appeals from his judgment of conviction after a jury returned a guilty verdict for aggravated assault, with a deadly weapon enhancement; malicious injury to property; possession of drug paraphernalia; and carrying a concealed weapon while under the influence. Stell first argues the trial court erred in admitting an audio recording of his arrest into evidence because it was irrelevant and prejudicial. Stell further argues that even if the recording is relevant, the trial court's failure to perform an Idaho Rule of Evidence 403 balancing test constituted an abuse of discretion. Second, Stell maintains admitting an audio recording wherein Stell invokes his right to counsel during his arrest constituted fundamental error. Last, Stell contends the trial court erred by denying his motion for judgment of acquittal on the charge of carrying a concealed weapon while under the influence because the State failed to present sufficient evidence of Stell's intoxication. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

         I.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURE

         During trial, the State presented testimonial evidence that on March 6, 2015, Stell and the victim began arguing at the victim's house. The argument resulted in Stell leaving the house on foot. The victim followed by car, requesting Stell return. Eventually, the victim drove to a park, while Stell walked to the residence of two friends: a male and a female. Based on Stell's behavior and level of agitation, the male friend believed Stell had been drinking.

         Upon arriving at the residence, Stell asked the male friend to take Stell to the gas station to purchase beer. Stell and the two friends drove to the gas station, where Stell bought a 40-ounce bottle of malt liquor. As the three drove back, Stell threw the victim's cellular phone out the window of the van. Officers later found the phone in the street, broken into three pieces. Stell then saw the victim in a parking lot and asked the male friend to pull over. Stell and the victim began arguing, and Stell eventually slammed the victim's passenger door, pointed a gun at the car, and finally got back into the van with the two friends. Both friends testified that Stell was very upset; saying he was going to kill the victim. Additionally, both friends believed Stell had a gun and saw what appeared to be a gun. Moreover, the three aimlessly drove around town because, based on Stell's behavior, the male friend did not want to take Stell to the house where the male friend's two children were.

         After observing the interaction at the park between Stell and the victim, a resident across the street called 911. In both her testimony and in the 911 recording, the resident described a man yelling at someone inside a car and pointing a gun at the car as it drove away. Police responded to the 911 dispatch call, searching for a white minivan. Officers eventually found the minivan in front of the two friends' residence. When officers arrived, Stell was inside the house, in the bathroom. As police went to the rear of the residence, Stell emerged from the bathroom window. Stell was handcuffed, read his Miranda[1] rights, and placed in a police car.

         As the arresting officer gave Stell Miranda warnings, Stell interrupted the officer, making various statements, and three times requested a lawyer. The entire exchange was audio recorded and the State sought introduction of a redacted version. Stell objected based on relevance and prejudicial effect. The district court overruled the objection, and the jury listened to the redacted audio recording, including Stell's repeated request for an attorney.

         Immediately following Stell's arrest, officers found a pink and black backpack under a pile of dirty clothes inside the bathroom Stell had just crawled from. Both friends testified that no one in their household owned the bag and that they believed it belonged to Stell. The backpack contained rubber gloves, ...


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