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State v. Herrera

Supreme Court of Idaho

November 30, 2018

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
RAUL EDGAR HERRERA, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the District Court of the Third Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Canyon County. Hon. Davis F. VanderVelde, District Judge.

         The judgment of the district court is affirmed.

          Eric D. Fredericksen, State Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for appellant. Brian R. Dickson argued.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Idaho Attorney General, Boise, for respondent. Lori A. Fleming argued.

          BRODY, JUSTICE.

         Raul Edgar Herrera challenges the district court's partial denial of his Idaho Criminal Rule 35 motion for correction or reduction of sentence. Following his conviction for first-degree murder, among other charges, Herrera was sentenced to an indeterminate term of life with thirty-five years fixed. Herrera argued that his sentence was illegal because the fixed term was greater than the duration authorized by Idaho Code section 18-4004, the statute governing punishment for murder. The district court rejected this argument and denied Herrera's motion as to that part, but the motion was granted in part due to an illegal sentence for Herrera's separate conviction for second-degree kidnapping. After a hearing was held to correct the kidnapping sentence, the district court entered an amended judgment, from which Herrera appealed. We affirm the district court's decision.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On July 21, 2015, Herrera was convicted by a jury of first-degree murder and second-degree kidnapping. On January 13, 2016, the district court imposed concurrent life sentences for each offense with fixed terms of thirty-five years and twenty years, respectively. Herrera filed an Idaho Criminal Rule 35 motion for leniency. The district court denied the motion, as well as a motion to reconsider that decision. On December 13, 2016, the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of conviction in an unpublished per curiam decision. Herrera's subsequent petition for review was denied.

         Thereafter, on March 6, 2017, Herrera filed a pro se Rule 35 motion seeking the correction of his allegedly illegal sentences for the murder and kidnapping convictions. During a hearing on the motion, the parties agreed to stipulate to a new kidnapping sentence of a fixed term of twenty years. Herrera conditioned his agreement with a stipulation on the district court concluding that his sentence for the murder conviction was lawful. Alternatively, if that sentence was found unlawful, Herrera stated that he would not agree to the stipulation.

         On August 16, 2017, the district court issued an order that granted and denied parts of Herrera's motion. The court first determined that the murder conviction's sentence was lawful under Idaho Code section 18-4004 and denied that part of the motion. As to the kidnapping offense, the court concluded that the sentence was illegal because the indeterminate life portion exceeded the maximum penalty permitted under Idaho Code section 18-4504(2). While acknowledging the parties' stipulation to a new sentence for that offense, the court explained that its finding rendered the original judgment void and therefore a new sentencing hearing was required.

         On October 5, 2017, following a resentencing hearing, the district court entered an amended judgment and commitment, wherein it imposed a twenty-year fixed sentence for the kidnapping conviction. The murder sentence was left unchanged. On October 25, 2017, Herrera filed a notice of appeal from the amended judgment.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Idaho Criminal Rule 35(a) enables a trial court to correct a sentence that is "illegal from the face of the record" at any time. I.C.R. 35(a). "Whether this rule is implicated generally raises a question of law, for which this Court exercises free review." State v. Passons, 163 Idaho 643, 645, 417 P.3d 240, 242 (2018) (citing State v. Clements, 148 Idaho 82, 84, 218 P.3d 1143, 1145 (2009)).

         III. ...


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