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State v. Robins

Supreme Court of Idaho

August 2, 2018

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
ANTHONY J. ROBINS, JR., Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Ada County. Honorable Samuel A. Hoagland, District Judge.

         The judgment of conviction is vacated and the case is remanded for an evidentiary hearing.

          Nevin, Benjamin, McKay & Bartlett, LLP, Boise, for appellant. Dennis Benjamin argued.

          Honorable Lawrence G. Wasden, Idaho Attorney General, Boise, for respondent. Kenneth K. Jorgensen argued.

          BRODY, JUSTICE.

         This appeal arises from the jury conviction of Anthony J. Robins, Jr., for aiding and abetting two first-degree murders and an attempted first-degree murder. While he was incarcerated prior to trial, Robins's cell was searched and handwritten notes he had prepared in anticipation of a meeting with counsel were seized and delivered to the prosecuting attorney. The district court granted Robins partial relief from a violation of his attorney-client privilege but placed the burden on him to object at trial if the State offered evidence or argument arising from the privileged materials. Robins argues that the district court erred in fashioning this remedy and we agree. In light of the circumstances, we vacate his judgment of conviction and remand the case with instructions to hold an evidentiary hearing to determine whether the State can overcome the presumption of prejudice arising from its violation of Robins's attorney-client privilege. If the State can overcome the presumption, a new trial must be conducted from which the Ada County Prosecutor's Office must be recused.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Robins was charged with aiding and abetting the first-degree murders of Elliot Bailey and Travone Calloway, and aiding and abetting the attempted first-degree murder of Jeanette Juraska. He was accused of aiding and abetting John Douglas for each count. The district court granted the State's motion to consolidate Robins's case with the criminal case against Douglas due to the cases' common facts, evidence, and witnesses.

         Following his arrest in Northern California, Robins was transferred to the Ada County Jail. On May 11, 2015, Scott McKay, Robins's local counsel, delivered discovery files to the jail so that Robins could have access to the materials while he was detained. Jail personnel informed McKay that the files could not be stored in Robins's cell because of the large number of documents, but that they could be securely stored in the jail library and made available for Robins's review. When the files were delivered, McKay informed Robins that his lead counsel, Brian McMonagle, would be traveling to Boise soon to meet with Robins, and that he should prepare for the meeting by taking notes and identifying matters of discussion related to his review of the files. On May 12, 2015, Robins received permission from the jail to review the files and took notes in anticipation of his meeting with McMonagle. On May 14, 2015, upon direction from Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Shelley Akamatsu, Robins's cell was searched by jail personnel, during which these notes were seized.

         The search of Robins's cell arose from information received by the Ada County Prosecutor's Office that an inmate unaffiliated with this case possessed a letter from Douglas to Robins that outlined an attempt to coordinate stories and minimize Robins's culpability for the murders. The Prosecutor's Office was informed by the inmate's counsel that his client intended to use the letter to broker a deal in his own pending case. Shortly thereafter, Akamatsu spoke with Ada County Sheriff's Office Sergeant Justin Ivie and directed him to locate a letter fitting this description. In turn, Sergeant Ivie instructed Ada County Sheriff's Office Deputies Cory Brooks and Timothy Roller to conduct a search of the unaffiliated inmate's cell to find the letter. That search did not produce the letter.

         After sharing the news with Akamatsu, Sergeant Ivie received approval from the prosecuting attorney to search Robins's and Douglas's cells. Akamatsu raised the issue of attorney-client privilege with respect to the search of the unaffiliated inmate's cell but did not address the same concern with respect to the latter two searches. Thereafter, upon an order from Sergeant Ivie, Deputies Brooks and Roller conducted a search of Robins's cell. The deputies were once more instructed to locate the letter from Douglas to Robins that the unaffiliated inmate had claimed to possess.

         During the search of Robins's cell, Deputy Roller found four pieces of lined paper consisting of six pages of handwritten notes in Robins's property bin. These notes were later shown to be those that Robins made on May 12th during his review of the discovery files. In examining the notes for the purpose of their search, the deputies recognized that their contents referred to Robins's and Douglas's cases and trial. The deputies testified that the notes were not in the form of a typical legal document-i.e., they were not typewritten, on letterhead, in a legal document, marked as "legal," stamped by an attorney, or in an envelope. They were, however, found in Robins's property bin, which was where inmates were expected to keep their privileged materials. The deputies also recognized that the notes were not in the form of a letter, as they did not include names or salutations. Nonetheless, under the belief that they were the objective of their search and not privileged legal documents, the deputies delivered the notes to Sergeant Ivie. The notes were then booked into evidence by Sergeant Ivie. At that time, he also notified Akamatsu, who in turn stated that the seized materials sounded promising and that she had an interest in seeing their contents. In response, Sergeant Ivie scanned the notes and emailed a copy to Akamatsu. Later that day, Akamatsu emailed a copy of the scanned notes to McMonagle and informed him that they had been found during a search of Robins's cell and booked into evidence.

         After the search of Robins's cell, the deputies searched Douglas's cell, which resulted in the seizure of notes and a lined notebook that were also delivered to Sergeant Ivie and eventually Akamatsu. The next day, the unaffiliated inmate's attorney visited the Prosecutor's Office and turned over a letter that had been given to him by his client. This letter was revealed to be the true objective of the searches the day before.

         Following these events, Robins filed a motion for order to show cause and for other relief from the State's violation of his attorney-client privilege. In the motion, Robins asserted that the notes contained privileged content and requested the dismissal of the pending charges or, in the alternative, an order recusing the Ada County Prosecutor's Office. In addition, Robins requested the return of the privileged materials without the State's retention of copies, the prohibition of the State from making any evidentiary use of its review of the materials, the requirement of the State to demonstrate in advance of trial that any evidence it intended to offer originated independently of the privileged materials, and the prohibition of the State from seizing and reviewing other privileged materials.

         Before the district court considered this motion, Robins also moved for relief from prejudicial joinder and sought to have his trial severed from Douglas's trial. The basis for this second motion was that severance was necessary to protect his Sixth Amendment rights because the letter written by Douglas (and turned over to the prosecuting attorney by the unaffiliated inmate) was inadmissible against him.

         On September 23, 2015, about four months after the notes were seized, the district court held an evidentiary hearing, at which Sergeant Ivie and Deputies Brooks and Roller were presented for testimony. During this hearing, the seized notes were admitted as a sealed exhibit. On September 30, 2015, after the district court reviewed the notes, it ordered the State to turn over all of its copies and any materials derived therefrom until it could issue a final decision on the pending motions. The State complied. On October 23, 2015, the district court issued a memorandum decision granting Robins's motion for order to show cause and for other relief in part. The district court also denied Robins's motion to sever.

         A jury ultimately found Robins guilty of all three counts against him. The letter intercepted by the unaffiliated inmate was admitted at trial over Robins's objections. Robins was sentenced to two concurrent life sentences, with forty years fixed, for the convictions of aiding and abetting first-degree murder and a concurrent fifteen-year fixed sentence for the conviction of aiding and abetting attempted first-degree murder. He timely appealed from the judgment of conviction.

         II. ANALYSIS

         Robins challenges the district court's decisions on two pretrial motions for relief. We will consider each of these decisions in turn.

         A. Motion for Relief from the State's Violation of Attorney-Client Privilege

         Robins contends that the district court erroneously required him to meet an initial burden at trial to show that he was prejudiced by the State's presentation of evidence or argument gained from its intrusion into his constitutional right to counsel. In response, the State argues that Robins is not entitled to any relief because he has failed to identify the actual prejudice he suffered as a result of the State's acquisition of his notes. "When an appellant asserts the violation of a constitutional right, we give deference to the trial court's factual findings unless those findings are clearly erroneous." State v. Dunlap, 155 Idaho 345, 361, 313 P.3d 1, 17 (2013) (quoting State v. Pearce, 146 Idaho 241, 248, 192 P.3d 1065, 1072 (2008)). "We exercise free review over the trial court's determination as to whether constitutional requirements have been satisfied in light of the facts found." Id.

         The Legislature's codification of the attorney-client privilege provides that "[a]n attorney cannot, without the consent of his client, be examined as to any communication made by the client to him, or his advice given thereon in the course of professional employment." I.C. § 9-203(2); State v. Iwakiri, 106 Idaho 618, 621, 682 P.2d 571, 574 (1984). The privilege is further defined under Idaho Rule of Evidence 502, which states:

A client has a privilege to refuse to disclose and to prevent any other person from disclosing confidential communications made for the purpose of facilitating the rendition of professional legal services to the client which were made . . . between the client or the client's ...

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