Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State v. Riddle

Court of Appeals of Utah

September 12, 2019

State of Utah, Appellee,
v.
Waylon Keith Riddle, Appellant.

          Sixth District Court, Kanab Department The Honorable Wallace A. Lee No. 161600142

          Dale W. Sessions, Attorney for Appellant

          Sean D. Reyes and Jonathan S. Bauer, Attorneys for Appellee

          Judge Michele M. Christiansen Forster authored this Opinion, in which Judges David N. Mortensen and Ryan M. Harris concurred.

          CHRISTIANSEN FORSTER, JUDGE:

         ¶1 Waylon Keith Riddle challenges the trial court's denial of his motion to set aside and vacate his convictions on four counts of distribution of a controlled substance. We affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶2 Three days after Riddle's jury trial was completed, his trial counsel had lunch with the Kane County Attorney, Robert Van Dyke. Van Dyke had not participated in Riddle's trial, which was tried by a deputy county attorney. While they were eating, a man approached Van Dyke to talk about some paperwork. Riddle's counsel recognized the man as one of the jurors in Riddle's trial. Van Dyke informed counsel that the juror was his personal accountant and that the paperwork referred to was Van Dyke's tax return. Although the jurors had been asked during voir dire about their acquaintance with the lawyers, parties, and witnesses in the case, they were never asked about their relationship to other individuals in the Kane County Attorney's office.

         ¶3 Based on the business relationship between Van Dyke and the juror, Riddle moved the court to set aside the jury's verdict, vacate his convictions, and order a new trial. Riddle acknowledged that there was no evidence that the juror was actually biased based on his professional relationship with Van Dyke but nevertheless asserted that the juror's relationship with Van Dyke violated his right to a fair and impartial jury. The trial court denied Riddle's motion, and Riddle now appeals.

         ISSUE AND STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶4 Riddle asserts that the court erred in denying his motion to set aside the jury's verdict and grant him a new trial. So long as the trial court has correctly applied the law, we review its "ruling on a motion for a new trial under an abuse of discretion standard." State v. De La Rosa, 2019 UT App 110, ¶ 4, 445 P.3d 955 (quotation simplified).

         ANALYSIS

         ¶5 Riddle urges us to hold that the very existence of an undisclosed professional relationship between Van Dyke and the juror created an appearance of impropriety that required a new trial. While he asserts that this is a matter of first impression, our case law is clear that a jury verdict need not be reversed on grounds of juror partiality when there is no evidence of bias on the part of the juror.

         ¶6 Rule 24 of the Utah Rules of Criminal Procedure permits trial courts to "grant a new trial in the interest of justice if there is any error or impropriety which had a substantial adverse effect upon the rights of a party." Utah R. Crim. P. 24(a). "[T]he Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause assures each defendant the fundamental right to a fair trial." State v. Arguelles, 2003 UT 1, ¶ 97, 63 P.3d 731. "One touchstone of a fair trial is an impartial trier of fact-a jury capable and willing to decide the case solely on the evidence before it." McDonough Power Equip., Inc. v. Greenwood, 464 U.S. 548, 554 (1984) (quotation simplified). Thus, one "error or impropriety," see Utah R. Crim. P. 24(a), that may justify granting a new trial to a defendant is the existence of juror bias. Nevertheless, "due process does not require a new trial every time a juror has been placed in a potentially compromising situation." Smith v. Phillips, 455 U.S. 209, 217 (1982). Likewise, a new trial under rule 24 is appropriate only where the alleged "error or impropriety . . . had a substantial ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.