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State v. York

Court of Appeals of Utah

May 17, 2018

State of Utah, Appellee,
Terell Lynn York, Appellant.

          Second District Court, Ogden Department The Honorable Mark R. DeCaria No. 151901944

          Samuel P. Newton, Cherise M. Bacalski, and Emily Adams, Attorneys for Appellant

          Sean D. Reyes and John J. Nielsen, Attorneys for Appellee.

          Judge Jill M. Pohlman authored this Opinion, in which Judges Michele M. Christiansen and Kate A. Toomey concurred.

          POHLMAN, JUDGE.

         ¶1 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.


         Events at the Campsite

         ¶2 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.

         ¶3 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.

         ¶4 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.

         ¶5 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 doorway.

         ¶6 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 whole time."

         Boyfriend's Testimony at Trial

         ¶7 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.

         ¶8 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.

         ¶9 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.

         ¶10 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]."

         ¶11 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 ...

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