District Court, St. George Department The Honorable G.
Michael Westfall No. 131501806
Nicolas D. Turner, Attorney for Appellant.
D. Reyes and Nathan D. Anderson, Attorneys for Appellee.
Diana Hagen authored this Opinion, in which Judges Kate A.
Toomey and David N. Mortensen concurred.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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
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).
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."
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
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