District Court, Ogden Department The Honorable Mark R.
DeCaria No. 151901944
P. Newton, Cherise M. Bacalski, and Emily Adams, Attorneys
D. Reyes and John J. Nielsen, Attorneys for Appellee.
Jill M. Pohlman authored this Opinion, in which Judges
Michele M. Christiansen and Kate A. Toomey concurred.
Terell Lynn York appeals her conviction of one count of
obstruction of justice, a third degree felony. She contends
that the trial court and the State committed errors related
to the impeachment of the key defense witness. We affirm.
at the Campsite
York, her boyfriend (Boyfriend), and a female friend were
camping in a small camper trailer at a campground in Weber
County. On the day the group was due to check out, the
campsite's manager inquired whether they would be staying
or leaving. The group informed the manager that they intended
to leave. However, that evening, the manager observed that
they had not packed up their campsite or departed. The
manager called the police.
Two officers from the Ogden police department responded. When
they arrived, Boyfriend did not appear to be at the campsite.
One of the officers, Officer Bryner, approached York and her
female friend and asked them to leave. The women began to
pack their belongings and load them into the camping trailer,
leaning inside its doorway multiple times. The manager
informed the officers that Boyfriend had been part of the
group and that he believed Boyfriend was inside the trailer.
When Officer Bryner walked back to his patrol car and ran
York's information on his computer, he "found a
link" between York and Boyfriend, and he showed the
manager a photograph of Boyfriend to verify it was the same
man the manager had observed. During the records search, he
also discovered that Boyfriend had an outstanding felony
arrest warrant. During this time, Officer Bryner had a clear
view of the trailer's door and kept his eye on the scene.
Once he discovered the warrant and Boyfriend's connection
to York, Officer Bryner returned to York and asked if she
knew Boyfriend's whereabouts. York responded that while
Boyfriend had been "down by the river just a few minutes
prior, " she did not know where he was. Officer Bryner
asked if Boyfriend was inside the trailer, and York said,
"No, he's not." Officer Bryner then informed
York of the active warrant for Boyfriend's arrest and
asked her again whether Boyfriend was inside the trailer.
Again, York responded that he was not. Finally, Officer
Bryner asked York for permission to look inside the trailer,
but York told him it was not her trailer and she could not
give permission to search it.
Immediately after that exchange, Officer Bryner obtained from
York's friend permission to search the trailer. When
Officer Bryner and the other responding officer, Officer
Taylor, looked into the trailer, they saw Boyfriend lying on
the bed with his feet right at the door due to the small size
of the trailer. Both officers described their view of
Boyfriend as completely unobstructed and noted that they
could see Boyfriend's entire body from the trailer's
Officer Bryner arrested Boyfriend. He also arrested York for
obstruction because she "had lied and helped conceal
[Boyfriend] during [the] investigation." Officer Taylor
transported York to jail. During transport, York yelled at
Officer Taylor that "she didn't give permission to
[Boyfriend] to be in the trailer, " that "she
wasn't helping him hide in the trailer, " and that
she "didn't open the door for him. He was there the
Testimony at Trial
The State charged York with obstruction of justice, and
York's case proceeded to trial. Boyfriend was the sole
witness for the defense. Boyfriend testified that, on the
evening in question, he had been near the river and observed
the police talking to York and her friend as he approached
the campsite. He stated that he snuck into the trailer when
the officer talking to York and York's friend walked back
to the patrol vehicle and that he did this to hide from the
police because of the warrant for his arrest. Boyfriend
claimed he could not see York when he snuck into the trailer,
thereby suggesting that she did not see him at that time. He
testified that he was in the trailer approximately three to
five minutes before he was discovered.
During cross-examination, the State questioned Boyfriend
about two previous convictions. First, the State questioned
Boyfriend about a 2010 conviction of tampering with evidence.
Boyfriend admitted he had been convicted of that crime.
Defense counsel did not immediately object, but subsequently
argued that the conviction was inadmissible under rule 609 of
the Utah Rules of Evidence, contending that it was not a
crime of dishonesty. Defense counsel also brought to the
court's attention that the conviction had been reduced
from a felony to a class A misdemeanor upon Boyfriend's
graduation from drug court.
On the overall issue of whether the tampering with evidence
conviction could be used to impeach Boyfriend, the court
determined that, even as a class A misdemeanor, the
conviction was admissible for that purpose. In particular,
the court concluded that the conviction was a dishonest act
under rule 609(a)(2). After it ruled, the court asked the
parties how they intended to present the conviction to the
jury. Defense counsel suggested that the parties could
stipulate that the conviction was a class A misdemeanor, and
the State agreed. Defense counsel also indicated that he
preferred the State to notify the jury of the stipulation.
The State subsequently advised the jury that the parties had
"stipulated to information" about Boyfriend's
conviction for tampering with evidence and that, although he
was convicted of a third degree felony, the conviction was
reduced to a class A misdemeanor. Defense counsel objected
that the State misstated the stipulation. The court
recognized that the stipulation was that Boyfriend had been
"convicted of a misdemeanor, ultimately, " and
determined that it would allow the evidence. In doing so, the
court noted that the conviction was "only being allowed
in as impeachment" of Boyfriend and that "it has no
implication directly or indirectly on [York]."
Second, the State questioned Boyfriend about one other
alleged conviction-giving false information to a police
officer in 2006. During cross-examination, Boyfriend stated
that he had been charged with that offense but denied that he
had been convicted. When the State attempted to produce a
"rap sheet, " defense counsel objected, and the
court sustained the objection. The next day, the State
supplied the court with a document from the South Ogden
Justice Court allegedly establishing that Boyfriend had been
convicted of the crime. Defense counsel objected, asserting
that it was not a judgment of conviction because it looked
more like a minute entry, the judge had not signed the
document as to the conviction, and the ...