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State v. Davis

Supreme Court of Idaho

October 25, 2019

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
JACOB S. DAVIS, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the District Court of the Third Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Payette County. Susan E. Wiebe, District Judge.

         The judgment of the district court is affirmed.

          Eric Don Fredericksen, State Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for Appellant. Ben P. McGreevy argued.

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

          MOELLER, JUSTICE

         I. NATURE OF THE CASE

         Jacob S. Davis appeals from the Payette County district court's denial of his motion for a new trial. Following his convictions in two separate cases, and subsequent appeals, Davis moved for a new trial in both cases based on two grounds: (1) the verdicts were contrary to the law or the evidence and (2) newly discovered evidence. Under the newly discovered evidence claim, Davis asserted that the State failed to preserve exculpatory evidence on Facebook, thereby allowing the evidence to be destroyed. The district court denied both motions. On appeal, Davis contends that the district court abused its discretion by not applying the proper standard to his newly discovered evidence claim, and that application of the proper standard would have yielded the opposite result. Davis further argues that as a result of this abuse of discretion, his right to a fair trial was violated. For the reasons stated below, we affirm the judgment of conviction.

         II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Due to his prior sex offense conviction, Davis was required to register as a sex offender.[1]In 2013, when an individual came forward with allegations that Davis had committed a theft, officers from the Payette Police Department learned that Davis was residing somewhere other than his registered address. Additionally, the individual informed the officers that Davis was living with two minor boys. After the officers investigated the matter further, they discovered that Davis was sexually abusing both boys. Further investigation revealed that Davis was in possession of sexually exploitative materials depicting both boys and at least one other minor.

         In November 2014, the State charged Davis with one felony count of "sexual offender registration-failure to notify of change of address or name," in violation of I.C. §§ 18-8304(1)(a), -8309(1)-(3), -8311(1), and gave notice of the applicability of a persistent violator sentencing enhancement, I.C. § 19-2514 (the registration case). The jury found Davis guilty of failing to update his sexual offender registration, and Davis subsequently admitted to the persistent violator sentencing enhancement alleged in the information. Upon Davis's request, the court postponed sentencing in anticipation of additional pending charges.

         In December 2014, the State charged Davis with multiple felony counts: four counts of lewd conduct with a child under sixteen, I.C. § 18-1508, four counts of sexual battery of a minor child sixteen or seventeen years of age, I.C. § 18-1508A, seven counts of possession of sexually exploitative material for other than a commercial purpose, I.C. §§ 18-1507, -1507A, and a repeat sexual offender sentencing enhancement, I.C. § 19-2520G (the sexual misconduct case). The jury found Davis guilty of two counts of lewd conduct, two counts of sexual battery, and one count of possession of sexually exploitative materials, and Davis subsequently admitted to the repeat sexual offender portion of the information.

         Davis was sentenced in November 2015 in both cases. In the registration case, the district court sentenced Davis to forty-five years, with twenty years fixed and twenty-five years indeterminate, to run concurrently with the sentences in the sexual misconduct case. In the sexual misconduct case, the district court sentenced Davis to four consecutive thirty-five year sentences, each with fifteen years fixed and twenty years indeterminate, and one fifteen-year fixed sentence. Davis timely appealed both cases, alleging that various errors occurred during his trials and sentencing. In an unpublished opinion, [2] the Idaho Court of Appeals affirmed the district court.

         After a remittitur was issued in both cases, Davis filed a number of pro se motions, including motions for a new trial in both cases. The specific grounds asserted for a new trial were (1) the verdict was contrary to the law or the evidence and (2) newly discovered evidence. In support of his newly discovered evidence claim, Davis alleged, in part, that the State prevented the use of exculpatory photographic evidence on "several Facebook accounts, by destroying and/or erasing [posted photographs] without affording the defendant a chance to review [them]." One example was "the posting of a camping trip which occurred over the weekend when the images of [the minors] were created." This evidence, Davis asserted, "would have proved that I was not at the Payette residence at the time these images were created (in addition to [the minors]) and that someone had manipulated the computers [sic] system settings." Davis also alleged that "a CONFIDENTIAL letter between defendant and counsel discussing trial strategies, which defendant mailed to counsel through the County Jail, . . . was in the custody of the plaintiffs LEAD investigating agents [sic] files on the defendant." Davis asserted that this letter "was a CONFIDENTIAL correspondence that I wrote [o]n . . . October [26], 2013, to my counsel at the time . . . which is NEWLY discovered evidence showing that the State and its investigating agents/agencies deliberately and affirmatively took steps to obtain privileged information about trial strategies I discussed with counsel."

         The district court denied the motions. Specific to Davis's newly discovered evidence claim, the court found that, "[s]ince the information is unknown, the Court cannot find that the evidence is material or that it would have probably produced an acquittal." Davis timely appeals.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         "The denial of a motion for new trial is reviewed for an abuse of discretion." State v. Stevens, 146 Idaho 139, 144, 191 P.3d 217, 222 (2008). This Court applies a four-part test when evaluating discretionary decisions of the lower court: whether the lower court "(1) correctly perceived the issue as one of discretion; (2) acted within the outer boundaries of its discretion; (3) acted consistently with the legal standards applicable to the specific choices available to it; and (4) reached its decision by the exercise of reason." State v. ...


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