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State v. Capone

Supreme Court of Idaho, Boise

September 6, 2018

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
CHARLES ANTHONY CAPONE, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the District Court of the Second Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Latah County. Hon. Carl B. Kerrick, District Judge.

         The judgment and the order of the district court are affirmed.

          Silvey Law Office, Ltd., Boise, for appellant.

          Honorable Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General, Boise, for respondent.

         ON THE BRIEFS

          HORTON, JUSTICE.

         This is an appeal from felony convictions for first degree murder, failure to notify coroner or law enforcement of death, and conspiracy to commit failure to notify coroner or law enforcement of death. The charges were brought against Charles Capone following the disappearance of Rachael Anderson in April of 2010. Capone was convicted of all charges following a sixteen-day jury trial. In this appeal, Capone challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support his conviction and asserts that the district court erred in the admission of certain evidence and by denying his motion for new trial. We affirm.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Capone and Anderson were married in September of 2009. The two separated that December and Anderson filed for divorce. Anderson began receiving harassing phone calls following the separation and her car was vandalized multiple times. At the time, Capone owned Palouse Multiple Services, a repair shop in Moscow, Idaho. Capone repaired Anderson's car after it was vandalized. Capone was working on Anderson's car on Friday, April 16, 2010. At the time, Anderson was driving a white Yukon that belonged to a friend of Capone.

         Anderson drove the Yukon to Capone's shop to pick up her car. Anderson became upset when she learned her car was not ready. Anderson went to run some errands while Capone continued to work on the car. Anderson bought some beer with Capone's debit card and then, according to Capone, ran off with a man named Vince. No one saw or heard from Anderson after her visit with Capone. Anderson was reported missing after she failed to show up for work the following Monday.

         On April 20, 2010, Capone was interviewed by the police. During this interview, Capone admitted that he had made the harassing phone calls to Anderson's phone. The following day, the Anderson family's search for her led to their discovery of the Yukon in Lewiston. Anderson's purse was inside the vehicle.

         On May 6, 2010, Capone was arrested for a federal firearm violation unrelated to Anderson's disappearance. While incarcerated on this charge, Capone made several incriminating statements to cellmates Brent Glass and Joshua Voss about his role in Anderson's disappearance.

         After an investigation that lasted for three years, on May 1, 2013, Capone and David Stone were charged with first degree murder and related crimes in connection with Anderson's disappearance. Following a preliminary hearing where both Capone and Stone were bound over on all charges, Stone entered into a plea agreement with the State in which he agreed to testify against Capone in exchange for dismissal of the murder charge against him.

         Before trial, the State filed a motion in limine regarding several evidentiary issues. The State sought to prevent Capone from introducing evidence of prior felony convictions to impeach the testimony of Glass and Voss. Pursuant to Idaho Rule of Evidence 404(b), the State also gave notice of its intent to use evidence of a past strangulation attempt and federal firearm crimes by Capone. After hearing argument, the district court ruled that Glass and Voss's prior felony convictions for burglary were not relevant to their credibility and reserved its ruling on the admissibility of the 404(b) evidence until trial.

         At trial, the State relied heavily on Stone's testimony. Stone testified that he was at Capone's shop on April 16, 2010. Capone went outside to talk with Anderson. Stone heard a noise and went outside to find Capone strangling Anderson. Anderson was still moving and Stone asked Capone what he was doing. Capone instructed Stone to get a tarp. Stone went inside and searched for a tarp. When he came back out, Anderson was dead. Stone testified that he and Capone wrapped Anderson's body in the tarp and a chain and drove to Lewiston, where they threw her body into the river from a bridge.

         The jury found Capone guilty of all charges. Following the verdict, Capone learned of a statement Stone made to Tyler Byers while the two were cellmates in July of 2013. Stone told Byers that they would not find Anderson's body in the river because she was not in the river. Capone filed a motion for a new trial based on this newly discovered information. After hearing the motion, the district court found that the new evidence did not merit a new trial as it was merely impeachment evidence and likely would not produce an acquittal. Capone timely appealed his conviction and the denial of his motion for a new trial.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         "This Court exercises free review over whether a jury was given proper instructions." State v. Severson, 147 Idaho 694, 710, 215 P.3d 414, 430 (2009). "Generally Idaho's appellate courts will not consider error not preserved for appeal through an objection at trial." State v. Perry, 150 Idaho 209, 224, 245 P.3d 961, 976 (2010).

[W]hen an error has not been properly preserved for appeal through objection at trial, the appellate court's authority to remedy that error is strictly circumscribed to cases where the error results in the defendant being deprived of his or her Fourteenth Amendment due process right to a fair trial in a fair tribunal.

Id. (citation omitted).

         "Whether evidence is relevant is an issue of law, which we review de novo." State v. Russo, 157 Idaho 299, 308, 336 P.3d 232, 241 (2014). "The denial of a motion for a new trial is reviewed for an abuse of discretion." State v. Stevens, 146 Idaho 139, 144, 191 P.3d 217, 222 (2008).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Capone advances several arguments on appeal. Capone first argues that there was insufficient evidence to corroborate Stone's accomplice testimony as required by Idaho Code section 19-2117. Next, Capone argues that the failure to instruct the jury regarding the corroboration requirement constitutes fundamental error. Capone next asserts that the district court erred by admitting 404(b) evidence of Capone's prior convictions and an alleged physical altercation between Capone and Anderson. Capone also argues that the district court erred when it found Glass and Voss's felony burglary convictions were not relevant to their credibility. Even if the individual errors are determined to be harmless, Capone contends that the doctrine of cumulative error requires reversal. Finally, Capone contends that the district court erred when it denied his motion for a new trial. These arguments will be addressed in turn.

         A. There was sufficient evidence to corroborate ...


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