State v. Adams, 12581

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Idaho
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM; BISTLINE
Citation99 Idaho 75,577 P.2d 1123
PartiesSTATE of Idaho, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Clifford W. ADAMS, Defendant-Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 12581,12581
Decision Date31 March 1978

Page 1123

577 P.2d 1123
99 Idaho 75
STATE of Idaho, Plaintiff-Respondent,
Clifford W. ADAMS, Defendant-Appellant.
No. 12581.
Supreme Court of Idaho.
March 31, 1978.
Rehearing Denied May 17, 1978.

James F. Judd, of Judd & Judd, Post Falls, for defendant-appellant.

Wayne L. Kidwell, Atty. Gen., James W. Blaine, Deputy Atty. Gen., Boise, Robert H. Thompson, Pros. Atty., Kootenai County, Coeur d'Alene, for plaintiff-respondent.


The defendant pleaded guilty to the aggravated battery of his infant daughter. He appeals from the sentence of two years in the state penitentiary imposed by the district court, arguing that it is excessively harsh and an abuse of the trial court's discretion.

The defendant is married and the father of two daughters Heidi, born in March, 1974, and Shawna, born in January, 1976. His relationship with the older child was normal in every respect, but the younger daughter would cry whenever he picked her up. The defendant and his wife consulted their physician regarding the younger daughter's tendency to cry when held by the defendant, but they were unable to resolve the problem.

On Saturday, October 30, 1976, apparently frustrated both by the younger daughter's continuous crying and by some problems at his employment, the defendant twisted the child's legs. The baby finally went to sleep and the defendant apparently did not realize that he had broken her legs. On the following Monday, November 1, 1976, again frustrated by the child's continuous crying and employment problems, the defendant suddenly struck the child with his hand, which later was found to have fractured the child's skull. The defendant obtained medical assistance for the child, representing that she had fallen from a chair. He later confessed that he had caused the child's injuries. Some broken ribs were also discovered and the defendant admitted that they were probably the result of a previous incident in which he had squeezed the child to stop her crying.

Following the incident on November 1, the defendant voluntarily began attending therapy sessions at "Parents Anonymous," [99 Idaho 76]

Page 1124

a group designed to help parents with child abuse problems, and at the Community Mental Health Center in Spokane, Washington. The injured child is presently in the protective custody of the State of Washington, and a Washington court order prohibits the defendant from visiting her.

The defendant pleaded guilty to an information charging aggravated battery in violation of I.C. § 18-912. He requested an extended probation conditioned on his continued participation in therapy programs at the mental health center and Parents Anonymous and on his strict compliance with the orders of the Washington court concerning visits with his injured daughter. The state made no sentencing recommendations. The district court sentenced the defendant, who had no prior criminal record, to two years in the state penitentiary, observing that incarceration would not be of any rehabilitative value to the defendant but that it might deter others from injuring young children and encourage them to seek help beforehand. Following an unsuccessful motion to the district court for reconsideration of sentence, the defendant brought this appeal.

The two year sentence imposed by the district court is well within the statutory maximum sentence of three years in the penitentiary for the crime to which the defendant pleaded guilty. I.C. § 18-912. See State v. Ogata, 95 Idaho 309, 508 P.2d 141 (1973); State v. Butler, 93 Idaho 492, 464 P.2d 931 (1970). The district court acknowledged that the sentence would be of no rehabilitative value to the defendant, but nevertheless imposed the two year period of incarceration in order to deter others from committing similar offenses. General deterrence is one of the several objectives of criminal punishment and has been held to be a sufficient reason for imposing a prison sentence. See State v. Ogata, supra; State v. Moore, 78 Idaho 359, 304 P.2d 1101 (1957). See also State v. Allen, 98 Idaho 782, 572 P.2d 885 (1977).

Accordingly, we affirm the judgment and sentence imposed. However, we order the district court to retain jurisdiction for 120 days after the remittitur issues, as authorized by I.C. § 19-2601(4), in order to consider any recommendations of the Board of Corrections made pursuant to that section. State v. Jones, 98 Idaho 199, 560 P.2d 870 (1977); State v. Ogata, supra. See also I.C.R. 35.

The judgment and sentence of the district court is affirmed as modified.

BISTLINE, Justice, dissenting.

The Court today continues to wander down a familiar melancholy path, disposing of one criminal record appeal after another with an incantation of the ritual litany that the sentence imposed is within the maximum limits provided by statute, no abuse of discretion has been shown, and the judgment is affirmed. I disagree with the disposition of this case, upon a belief that the sentence should be commuted. In this area of sentencing review, it seems to me that the Court has somehow lost touch with its own traditional notions of justice, with universally recognized principles of contemporary jurisprudence, and with the manifest intent of the Idaho legislature.

If we bypass those cases in which this Court modified consecutive sentences by providing that they be served concurrently, 1 my review discloses that it has been 17 long years since this Court last modified a sentence as unduly harsh or excessive. 2 A reasonable conclusion to be drawn is either that there is no longer any meaningful appellate review of sentencing in Idaho, or that Idaho is an exception to the pattern of widespread inconsistency, inequality and injustice in trial court sentencing practices, which has been found by every survey ever [99 Idaho 77]

Page 1125

made and which annually generates a flood of outraged publications on the topic. 3

As recently as 1969, an American Bar Foundation study concluded that, although "appellate review of sentencings is available in an increasing number of jurisdictions," more than half the states in the Union still "refused to review sentences that are within (statutory) limits." Dawson, Sentencing: The Decision as to Type, Length and Conditions of Sentence, p. 386. It is ironic that while other jurisdictions are only now beginning to appreciate the wisdom of permitting appellate review of sentences, this Court is retreating from an early and rich tradition of Idaho law which has long endorsed the practice.


The tradition of appellate review of trial court sentencing was established in this jurisdiction in 1907 in State v. Neil, 13 Idaho 539, 90 P. 860. The Court disposed of defendant's various assignments of error and sustained his conviction of the crime of assault with intent to commit rape. Then, although the defendant himself had apparently not raised the issue of excessiveness of sentencing, the Court addressed the question as follows:

Our examination of the entire record in this case, which has been very thorough and in detail, convinces us that the sentence propounded against the defendant is too severe, and entirely disproportionate to the gravity of the offense. For the most aggravated cases of this kind the statute authorizes the maximum penalty of fourteen years. Here the defendant was given a ten years' sentence. State v. Neil, 13 Idaho at 553, 90 P. at 864.

The Court noted that no such aggravated circumstances were present in this case and that the woman, though "virtuous" had been somewhat "indiscreet" in dealing with the defendant. The Court then concluded:

It is both the spirit and intention of our laws that sentence shall be imposed in criminal cases for the protection of society and the reformation of the culprit. As we view this whole case, the two years' imprisonment of the defendant will be as much protection to society and do him as much good as would ten. Ten years would practically ruin him for life. He is a young man yet (defendant was 26 years of age), and it is hoped that this experience will serve to reshape and reconstruct his views regarding his duties and obligations to those about him, and possibly inspire him with some higher and better notions than those only of gratifying his lust and sensual passions. We have concluded to modify the sentence to the extent of reducing it to a term of two years in the state penitentiary. Id. at 554, 90 P. at 864.

In State v. Ramirez, 34 Idaho 623, 203 P. 279 (1921), the issue of appellate review of sentencings was more squarely posed. The barriers to review were formidable: the Court had already heard an appeal and affirmed the death sentence imposed on Ramirez; the remittitur had already gone down and the Court's further jurisdiction over the case was therefore called into question; an impressive body of case law from other jurisdictions was invoked by the State in order to preclude appellate review of a sentence which the legislature had put [99 Idaho 78]

Page 1126

in the hands of a jury. The Court, on rehearing, ruled that it had power to recall the remittitur. The Court then addressed the question of reviewability and left no doubt as to its power in that field. The legislature, it said, could not give a jury exclusive power to impose sentences. The sentence was held to merge with the conviction in district court and thus was subject to appellate review under Idaho Const. art. 5, § 9, which provides that "The Supreme Court shall have jurisdiction to review, upon appeal, any decision of the district courts, or the judges thereof." Furthermore, statutory authority to reduce the sentence was said to derive from C.S., sec. 6446 (now I.C. § 19-2821) which, as it then read, provided that

The (supreme) court may reverse, affirm or modify any order or judgment appealed from and may direct the proper judgment or order to be entered, or direct a new trial or further proceedings to be had.

The power of the Court to modify...

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29 cases
  • State v. Draper, 34667.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • September 13, 2011
    ...P.2d 482 (1992), that “[i]n modifying sentences, the Court has given great weight to the age of a defendant....” (Quoting State v. Adams, 99 Idaho 75, 79, 577 P.2d 1123, 1127 (1978) (Bistline, J. dissenting)). Notably, this statement came in the context of an analysis of the reasonableness ......
  • State v. Draper, 34667.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • September 13, 2011
    ...P.2d 482 (1992), that "[i]n modifying sentences, the Court has given great weight to the age of a defendant...." (Quoting State v. Adams, 99 Idaho 75, 79, 577 P.2d 1123, 1127 (1978) (Bistline, J. dissenting)). Notably, this statement came in the context of an analysis of the reasonableness ......
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    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • July 17, 1978 the record before the sentencing judge. Idaho judicial history is replete with examples of modified sentences. State v. Adams, 99 Idaho 75, 577 P.2d 1123, Released March 31, 1978 (see dissenting opinion of Bistline, J.). This history is in conformance with the purpose of appellate The ge......
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    ...and punishment, and not Moore's potential for rehabilitation. This argument was previously rejected by this Court in State v. Adams, 99 Idaho 75, 577 P.2d 1123 (1978). In Adams, this Court affirmed a sentence which the district court acknowledged had no rehabilitative value for the defendan......
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