District Court, Salt Lake Department The Honorable Randall N.
Skanchy No. 141900236
J. DelPorto, Attorney for Appellant
D. Reyes and Kris C. Leonard, Attorneys for Appellee
David N. Mortensen authored this Opinion, in which Judges
Michele M. Christiansen Forster and Diana Hagen concurred.
In retaliation for a drug deal gone sideways, Chris Leech
orchestrated the kidnapping of two individuals (Middleman and
Victim). Leech and several other individuals-including
defendant Viliamu Seumanu-held, bound, and transported
Middleman and Victim to a remote location in Weber Canyon.
There, Leech shot Victim and then told Middleman to shoot
Victim or else Leech would kill Middleman. Middleman
complied. Seumanu, under the orders of Leech, later destroyed
all physical evidence of the murder. Seumanu was charged with
murder, aggravated kidnapping of Victim and Middleman, and
obstruction of justice. A jury convicted Seumanu on all
charges. He appeals one of the aggravated kidnapping
convictions for which he was sentenced to life without
parole. We affirm.
Middleman was supposed to deliver four ounces of
methamphetamine to a distributor (Soules) waiting at a local
residence (Residence). Middleman could not reach his supplier
and, therefore, could only procure two ounces. During the
additional two-day wait to get more methamphetamine,
Middleman confided his problem to Victim, who offered to get
the remaining two ounces for a little more money. After
Middleman was yet again unable to reach his supplier, he
accepted Victim's offer to get the additional two ounces
without notifying Soules of the deal or the price increase.
Middleman waited at a friend's house while Victim went to
get the drugs. Victim took longer than expected and stopped
answering his phone when Middleman called. This caused
Middleman to begin ignoring Soules's repeated requests
for an update on where the drugs were.
After waiting several hours, Middleman had Soules pick him
up. Together, they went to the Residence, where Middleman
told Soules about Victim and how Victim was now in charge of
procuring the additional two ounces of methamphetamine.
Soules complained that she had customers waiting and urged
Middleman to get the problem taken care of before Leech
arrived. Soon thereafter, Leech arrived at the Residence.
Upon arrival, Leech pulled out a gun and asked Middleman what
was going on. Middleman tried to assure Leech that he was
dealing with it, to which Leech replied that he had better
get it done "or it was [Middleman's] ass."
After this exchange, Leech left a man with a gun in the
garage with Middleman and refused to let Middleman leave.
Around this time, Seumanu and several others arrived at the
In an effort to find and punish Victim, four men-Leech,
Seumanu, Middleman, and one other (Myore)-left the Residence
and went to an apartment where Victim was supposed to meet
Soules. When Victim arrived at the apartment, Leech pulled a
gun out and ordered Victim and Middleman to lie face down,
side-by-side, on the floor. Leech then frisked them both,
removed their shoes, and emptied their pockets. Victim tried
to explain that he had the additional two ounces of drugs,
but Leech told him to shut up. Leech then ordered Myore to
blindfold both men and tie their hands behind their backs,
which he did. While there were other people present in the
room, including Seumanu, no one tried to stop Leech.
In the early morning hours, Myore transferred Middleman and
Victim to the backseat of Myore's truck. Seumanu sat in
the backseat next to Middleman and Victim. Myore then drove
Leech, Seumanu, Victim, and Middleman to an abandoned road in
Weber Canyon, stopping once for gas. During their travels,
Victim pleaded for his life and asked them not to follow
through with their plan. He promised not to say anything to
anyone, but Leech said it was already "too late."
Leech asked Myore for his firearm, and Myore complied. On
Leech's order, Seumanu opened the door of the truck and
escorted Middleman and Victim approximately 100 yards down a
hill. There, after their faces were uncovered, Middleman
looked to Victim, who said, "I guess this is it,"
and, "I'm sorry, bro." Leech then shot Victim
in the back.
Next, Leech unbound Middleman's hands. He then handed his
gun to Middleman and said, "There's your home boy,
you finish it or I'm going to kill you." Middleman
attempted to fire a single shot at Victim, but the gun
jammed. Middleman quickly gave the gun back to Leech, who
ordered Seumanu to point a different gun at Middleman's
head. Seumanu did so, and once the original gun was unjammed,
Leech gave it back to Middleman. With a gun pressed against
the back of Middleman's head, Middleman shot Victim.
Victim was left alone where he was shot, and the four other
men-Leech, Seumanu, Myore, and Middleman-left in the truck.
On the way back to the Residence, Leech directed everyone to
pretend they were still trying to find Victim. Leech further
ordered Myore to clean, vacuum, and shampoo the truck, and he
told Seumanu to burn everything belonging to Victim and
Middleman. Myore and Seumanu complied.
Several months later, detectives from the West Valley City
Police Department discovered Victim's body. Police
interviewed many of the people present the night of the
murder, including Seumanu. During Seumanu's interview, he
claimed that he did not know what the officers were talking
about and stated that "it had been a while since
he'd seen" Middleman; and he last saw Victim three
or four months earlier smoking outside an apartment complex
in Taylorsville. When pressed further, Seumanu changed his
story, admitting that he had been at the Residence with
Soules, Myore, Leech, Middleman, and Victim.
Seumanu then admitted that he waited for Victim at the
Residence along with Soules, Myore, Middleman, and Leech; he
got into Myore's truck and went into the mountains; the
group stopped for gas on the way to Weber Canyon; they drove
about an hour; and they parked near a gate and everyone else
got out while he remained at the truck. Seumanu eventually
told police that Leech and Myore walked Middleman and Victim
down a hill while he followed, that he watched Leech shoot
Victim, saw Leech and Middleman walk toward Victim's
body, and saw Middleman shoot Victim. Finally, Seumanu stated
that when they returned from Weber Canyon, Myore and Leech
took care of destroying evidence while he went home.
Over a year before trial, the State filed charges against
Seumanu as an accomplice to one count of murder, two counts
of aggravated kidnapping, and one count of obstruction of
justice (Information). Count 3 in the Information is titled
"AGGRAVATED KIDNAPPING" and makes specific
reference to the aggravated kidnapping statute: Utah Code
section 76-5-302. The Information also contains the
State's probable cause statement describing Seumanu's
role in the kidnapping and that during the course of
Middleman's kidnapping, Victim was shot and killed.
On the morning of trial, Seumanu received the State's
proposed verdict form (Verdict Form), proposed special
verdict form (Special Verdict Form), and proposed jury
instruction 40 (Instruction 40). The Verdict Form listed the
charges-including count 3 for aggravated kidnapping-and
required the jury to indicate whether Seumanu was guilty or
not guilty on each charge. The Special Verdict Form required
the jury to indicate whether it found "beyond a
reasonable doubt" that "[d]uring the course of the
commission of the Aggravated Kidnapping of [Middleman, ]
[Seumanu], as a party, caused serious bodily injury to
[Victim]"-which, if found, could result in a sentence of
life without parole. Instruction 40 defined the "as a
party" language used in the Special Verdict Form.
Specifically, Instruction 40 stated that "a person can
commit a criminal offense even though that person did not
personally do all of the acts that make up the offense"
if "(1) the defendant had the mental state required to
commit the offense, and (2) the defendant solicited,
requested, commanded, encouraged, or intentionally aided
another to commit the offense, and (3) the offense was
committed." When Seumanu's counsel received the
Verdict Form, the Special Verdict Form, and Instruction 40,
he did not object, request a continuance, or indicate that he
was unprepared to proceed with trial.
At trial, Seumanu claimed that his presence at the murder was
coerced by Leech and that his actions did not contribute to
the murder. His wife (Wife) also testified that she attempted
to persuade Leech not to do anything, but he was "gone
in his mind" and would not listen. She claimed that she
attempted to prevent Leech from taking Seumanu with him, but
in response, Leech pointed his gun at her and insisted that
Seumanu would be leaving with him. And only then did ...