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State v. Bryson

Court of Appeals of Utah

June 14, 2018

State of Utah, Appellee,
v.
Harold Otto Bryson, Appellant.

          Third District Court, Salt Lake Department The Honorable Paul B. Parker No. 141906571.

          Teresa L. Welch, Attorney for Appellant.

          Sean D. Reyes and Lindsey L. Wheeler, Attorneys for Appellee.

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

          OPINION

          TOOMEY, JUDGE.

         ¶1 Harold Otto Bryson appeals the district court's denial of his motion to redact portions of a letter entered into evidence at his trial for stalking in violation of a civil stalking injunction. He also appeals his conviction. We affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶2 On November 17, 2011, Bryson's former girlfriend (Victim) obtained a civil stalking injunction against him. The injunction was effective for three years and ordered Bryson not to "follow, threaten, annoy, harass, or cause distress" to Victim and not to "contact, phone, mail, e-mail, or communicate in any way" with her "either directly or indirectly."

         ¶3 On May 13, 2014, Victim received a FedEx package at her workplace. The package was addressed to her, identified the sender with Bryson's first name and Victim's last name, and was postmarked May 7, 2014. The package contained a letter in which Bryson referred to Victim as his "wife." The letter was addressed to "Babe" and signed "Harry, " Bryson's nickname. In the letter, Bryson made a number of references to the Book of Mormon and quoted extensively from it. He also told Victim that her deceased father and grandfather were going to speak to her in a dream and that her father told Bryson to have her read certain scriptures.

         ¶4 Victim reported the letter to police, and ten days later, Bryson was arrested. In his interview with police, Bryson admitted he sent the letter via FedEx, although he could not remember the exact date. When police showed him a copy of it, he acknowledged it was the letter he sent and stated, "I sent the letter, of course, I will never deny I sent the letter." He also acknowledged he was aware of the injunction and even the date it had been entered but explained, "I haven't paid any mind to the injunction the entire time."

         ¶5 The State charged Bryson with second-degree felony stalking. Before trial, Bryson sought to have the religious references and the references to Victim's family redacted from the letter, claiming that these "could arouse an emotion in the jury that would be extremely prejudicial to [him]." Specifically, he argued,

[I]n reference to [Victim], it talks about her grandfather and her dad. These are deceased people. . . . I mean, if people in the jury are members of the LDS faith, they could, you know, it could go either way, I mean, it just depends on where they are with their faith. It could be disturbing to them having deceased people brought up within a letter.

         The district court denied Bryson's motion.

         ¶6 During voir dire, the district court asked the jurors whether they had "any prejudice against the LDS Church or against the Book of Mormon." In response, one juror ...


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