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State v. Hill

Court of Appeals of Utah

July 19, 2018

State of Utah, Appellee,
v.
Michael Robert Hill, Appellant.

          Sixth District Court, Manti Department The Honorable Marvin D. Bagley No. 141600182

          Douglas L. Neeley, Attorney for Appellant

          Sean D. Reyes and Thomas Brunker, Attorneys for Appellee

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

          OPINION

          CHRISTIANSEN, Judge.

         ¶1 Defendant Michael Robert Hill appeals his convictions for burglary and theft by receiving stolen property. We affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶2 On September 18, 2014, Hill accompanied his girlfriend (Girlfriend) to a cabin owned by her ex-boyfriend (Victim). Hill assisted Girlfriend in removing a number of items from the cabin, including guns, ammunition, a compound bow, men's outdoor clothing, fishing poles, binoculars, candles, and beach towels.

         ¶3 Victim reported the items missing. When police investigated, they found a broken window and pry marks on the front door deadbolt. Victim suspected that Hill and Girlfriend were responsible, and he provided police with photographs of them and their vehicle. Eyewitnesses who had observed a man and woman carrying property to a vehicle near the cabin on the day of the robbery identified Hill, Girlfriend, and their vehicle. Police discovered that Hill had pawned the compound bow, and they also found several more of the stolen items both in the house Hill shared with a roommate and in the roommate's car.

         ¶4 During a police interview, Hill admitted that he helped Girlfriend remove the items from the cabin, but he insisted that he believed they belonged to her. He claimed he did not initially accompany Girlfriend to the cabin but only helped her carry the items to the vehicle after they had already been removed from the cabin. He claimed he never saw the broken window. He also claimed he had pawned the bow on Girlfriend's behalf.

         ¶5 The State charged Hill with second-degree-felony burglary and second-degree-felony theft by receiving stolen property. The State subpoenaed Girlfriend to testify at trial, but she refused to appear, asserting her right against self-incrimination. Following trial, the jury convicted Hill of second-degree-felony burglary and third-degree-felony theft by receiving stolen property.

         ¶6 Hill moved for a new trial. He asserted that his counsel performed ineffectively by failing to (1) call Girlfriend to testify, (2) introduce into evidence an email written five months after the burglary that Victim purportedly sent to Girlfriend, and (3) introduce a recording of Girlfriend's police interview.

         ¶7 After an evidentiary hearing, the district court denied Hill's motion for a new trial. The court reasoned that Hill had failed to prove that Girlfriend would have testified even if she had been called by the defense, that counsel had acted appropriately in choosing not to introduce the email because it was fabricated, and that Girlfriend's police interview was unhelpful to the defense ...


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