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State v. Karren

Court of Appeals of Utah

December 13, 2018

State of Utah, Appellee,
Danny Robert Karren, Appellant.

          Fifth District Court, St. George Department The Honorable G. Michael Westfall No. 131501806

          Nicolas D. Turner, Attorney for Appellant.

          Sean D. Reyes and Nathan D. Anderson, Attorneys for Appellee.

          Judge Diana Hagen authored this Opinion, in which Judges Kate A. Toomey and David N. Mortensen concurred.


          HAGEN, JUDGE.

         ¶1 Danny Robert Karren appeals his convictions for possession or use of methamphetamine, possession or use of marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Karren argues that the district court erred by denying his request for an innocent possession jury instruction. Relying on State v. Miller, 2008 UT 61, 193 P.3d 92, Karren contends that he was entitled to an instruction on innocent possession because he was charged with a possession crime. Because Karren's argument misinterprets the holding in Miller and because the evidence in the record does not support an innocent possession instruction, we affirm the district court's denial of his request.

         ¶2 Karren also contends that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to timely file certain pre-trial motions. Without addressing whether trial counsel's failure to timely file motions constituted deficient performance, we hold that Karren has failed to carry his burden of showing prejudice.


         ¶3 After allegedly lighting a neighbor's car on fire, Karren's roommate and his girlfriend returned to the apartment they shared with Karren. There the two gathered "anything and everything they could," spoke briefly with Karren, and fled the apartment, leaving Karren behind. Sometime early the next morning, Karren smoked methamphetamine. Around the same time, Karren's roommate contacted Karren to let him know that the police might come to their apartment and that he left some things he needed Karren to bring to him. Karren agreed to deliver to a local motel a glass marijuana pipe, which belonged to the roommate's girlfriend, and a black backpack he retrieved from the roommate's bedroom. Karren placed the glass pipe in the backpack and drove to the motel in his van. When he arrived, Karren moved the backpack to the backseat of the van and fell asleep.

         ¶4 Shortly thereafter, a police officer responding to a call from a motel employee found Karren asleep in his vehicle. While he was standing outside of the vehicle looking in at Karren, the officer observed a large metal spoon with white residue lying on the passenger seat. Based on his training and experience, the officer recognized that the white residue was methamphetamine and that the spoon had been used to heat methamphetamine.

         ¶5 The officer woke Karren and asked him to get out of the van. After exiting the vehicle, Karren provided the officer with his name and date of birth and the officer ran Karren's name through a government database and discovered that Karren had several warrants for his arrest. The officer read Karren his Miranda[2] rights, placed him under arrest, and questioned him about the white residue on the spoon. Karren replied that it was "meth." The officer also questioned Karren about when he last used "illegal drugs," to which Karren replied that it had been "approximately four hours before [their] encounter." Karren admitted he had also injected methamphetamine into his arm and the residue on the spoon was from heating the methamphetamine for injection.

         ¶6 Next, the officer asked Karren if there were any other drugs or drug paraphernalia in the vehicle. Karren answered affirmatively, directing the arresting officer to the black backpack in the backseat of the van that Karren admitted contained "a meth pipe, some syringes, a baggie of meth, and a marijuana pipe." When the officer asked if the items belonged to Karren, he answered, "Well, they're in my vehicle, aren't they?" In response to the arresting officer's questions, Karren also explained "that a crime happened earlier involving his roommate and that he thought the cops were going to come into his house, and so he loaded up some belongings inside his house, drove to the motel, and . . . fell asleep." Then Karren disclosed that the drugs in the backpack actually belonged to his roommate.

         ¶7 After questioning Karren outside the vehicle, the officer searched the vehicle and recovered the spoon with white residue from the passenger seat, a digital scale from the floor between the front seats, and the black backpack from behind the passenger seat. He searched the inside the backpack and discovered a second spoon with white residue on it, a glass methamphetamine pipe with white residue, a small plastic bag containing syringe caps and a crystal substance "consistent with that of methamphetamine," and a glass pipe containing "a green leafy substance that was consistent with that of marijuana." The green leafy substance later tested positive for marijuana and the crystal substance and white residue later tested positive for methamphetamine.

         ¶8 Based on Karren's statements to the officer and the drugs and paraphernalia discovered in his van, the State charged Karren with possession or use of methamphetamine, see Utah Code Ann. §§ 58-37-8(2)(a)(i), 58-37-4 (LexisNexis Supp. 2018); possession or use of marijuana, see id.; and possession of drug paraphernalia, see id. § 58-37a-5(1).

         ¶9 Karren's trial counsel filed several pre-trial motions as the case progressed, including a motion for discovery, a motion to compel discovery, two motions for defense resources, a motion for an entrapment hearing, and a motion to continue Karren's trial. Two days before trial, trial counsel filed a second motion to continue, which he orally renewed on the first morning of trial. In argument on that motion, counsel stated he was renewing the motion to continue to "pursue at least three [other] motions."

         ¶10 First, trial counsel requested a continuance to prepare a request for a jury instruction about missing or contaminated evidence, arguing that testimony from a prior hearing revealed that a police officer took photographs of the items inside of Karren's van. Because those photographs had not been produced, Karren requested a missing evidence jury instruction.

         ¶11 Karren's trial counsel then made a second motion, arguing that some of Karren's incriminating statements should be suppressed because the arresting officer conducted an "unwarranted custodial interrogation." Counsel stated that he believed that Karren was not given his ...

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