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State v. Grover

Court of Appeals of Utah

November 21, 2019

State of Utah, Appellee,
v.
Ryan Andrew Grover, Appellant.

          Third District Court, Salt Lake Department The Honorable Amber M. Mettler No. 171911268

          Teresa L. Welch and Dayna K. Moore, Attorneys for Appellant

          Sean D. Reyes and Thomas Brunker, Attorneys for Appellee

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

          MORTENSEN, JUDGE

         ¶1 Around midnight, two cars raced down Little Cottonwood Canyon, doing 62 in a 40. An officer attempted to stop the drivers-one of whom was Ryan Andrew Grover-but Grover sped off while the other driver stopped and later gave Grover's name and phone number to the officer. The officer arrested Grover at his house the next day for failing to stop, and the jury convicted him. Grover contends that the evidence is insufficient to prove that he knowingly received the officer's signal to stop. But Grover's contention collides with the jury's reasonable inference that Grover indeed knew the officer was signaling for him to stop. We affirm.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         ¶2 Around midnight on a fall evening, an officer was driving up Little Cottonwood Canyon when he saw two cars racing down the canyon toward him. Upon estimating that their speeds were 60 miles per hour (MPH) in the 40-MPH zone, the officer employed his radar gun and detected that Grover was driving 62 MPH. Intending to stop the cars, the officer activated his emergency lights when the cars were about 150 feet in front of him. There were no other cars on the road. With the officer's brightly flashing red and blue lights in the night's dark sky, the second driver slammed on his brakes and pulled over about forty feet before reaching the officer. But Grover continued speeding. As Grover passed the officer, the officer heard Grover rev his engine and estimated that Grover accelerated to about 75 MPH. The officer made a U-turn and pursued Grover, but he had to discontinue his chase due to a department policy against pursuing fleeing suspects in the canyons at dangerously high speeds.

         ¶3 The officer then returned to the other driver's car to investigate. After some questioning, the driver indicated that Grover was his friend and agreed to tell the officer who Grover was, disclosing Grover's name and phone number. The driver then asked, "Is there anything else I can do?" The officer responded, "[Y]ou should probably call your buddy and tell him to come back here." The driver called Grover and told him that the officer was there and that he should come back, but Grover refused to return.

         ¶4 The next day, the officer went to Grover's home. Upon arriving, the officer noticed the same car that he had seen the night before racing down the canyon now parked in the driveway. Grover answered the door, and the officer asked him why he did not stop the night before. Grover replied, "Was that you?" The officer confirmed that it was and again asked why Grover did not stop. Grover said he didn't feel he was doing anything wrong. The officer countered by asking Grover why, if he had not done anything wrong, he did not stop. Grover replied this time, "I didn't want to waste my time."

         ¶5 The officer arrested Grover, and the State charged him with one count of failure to respond to an officer's signal to stop. At trial, the State called two witnesses-the other driver and the officer-who testified about these events. Defense counsel moved for a directed verdict, but the district court denied the motion. Grover neither called any witnesses nor did he testify. The jury convicted Grover, and he now appeals.

         ISSUE AND STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶6 The lone issue on appeal is whether there was sufficient evidence for the jury to conclude that Grover knowingly received an officer's signal to stop. "On a sufficiency of the evidence claim we give substantial deference to the jury." State v. Ashcraft, 2015 UT 5, ¶ 18, 349 P.3d 664. "We review the evidence and all inferences which may reasonably be drawn from it in the light most favorable to the verdict of the jury." State v. Nielsen, 2014 UT 10, ΒΆ 30, 326 P.3d 645 (cleaned up). "We may reverse a verdict only when the evidence, so viewed, is sufficiently inconclusive or inherently improbable that reasonable minds ...


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