State v. Boone

Decision Date18 October 1991
Docket NumberNo. 910046-CA,910046-CA
Citation820 P.2d 930
PartiesSTATE of Utah, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. Gale BOONE, Defendant and Appellant.
CourtUtah Court of Appeals
OPINION

BILLINGS, Associate Presiding Judge:

Defendant Gale Boone appeals his conviction for aggravated burglary, a first-degree felony, in violation of Utah Code Ann. § 76-6-203 (Supp.1988). 1 We affirm.

FACTS

During the evening of January 28, 1989, defendant confronted Steve Carly at the Sandy Station Nightclub and requested that Mr. Carly return a ring Mr. Carly was apparently holding as security for a loan. A fight ensued between the two men, and Mr. Carly agreed to exchange the ring for the loan payment the following evening.

Early the next morning, defendant awakened Mr. and Mrs. Carly by banging loudly upon the front door of their home. When Mr. Carly opened the door, defendant demanded the ring. Although Mr. Carly instructed defendant to wait outside while he went upstairs to get the ring, defendant entered the Carly home. When Mr. Carly returned with the ring, defendant questioned its authenticity and stated he wanted to resume their earlier fight. Defendant struck Mr. Carly in the mouth with a closed fist, and the two men began fighting. Mr. Carly shouted to his wife to call the police, and he eventually restrained defendant in a headlock.

Two other men subsequently entered the Carly home. One struck Mr. Carly, causing him to hit his head on the kitchen sink. As a result, Mr. Carly became dizzy. Defendant went into the master bedroom, attempting to prevent Mrs. Carly from contacting the police. During the struggle, defendant knocked the Carly's two-year-old child off the bed. While defendant was in the bedroom, Mr. Carly managed to grab three kitchen knives and gesture with them toward his two remaining assailants until they fled. Defendant then exited the home, threatening to kill Mr. Carly's family if Mr. Carly called the police.

The State subsequently charged defendant with aggravated burglary, a first-degree felony, in violation of Utah Code Ann. § 76-6-203 (Supp.1988). Prior to jury deliberation, defendant moved for a mistrial. Defendant alleged Mrs. Carly's disruptive behavior during closing argument prejudiced the jury. The trial court denied the motion, and defendant was convicted.

Defendant moved for a new trial, based again on Mrs. Carly's alleged prejudicial conduct, and for a reduction of the charge to burglary, a second-degree felony, contending there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction of aggravated burglary. The trial court denied both motions, sentencing defendant to a term of five years to life imprisonment, suspended in lieu of a one-year term of incarceration in jail and five years of probation.

On appeal, defendant challenges the trial court's denial of his motions for a mistrial and a new trial. First, he contends Mrs. Carly's disruptive conduct prejudiced the jury, in violation of his constitutional right to a fair trial. Second, he claims there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction of aggravated burglary, as there was no evidence that Mr. Carly suffered bodily injury.

DISRUPTIVE COURTROOM BEHAVIOR

We will uphold the trial court's denial of defendant's motion for a new trial unless we determine the court has abused its discretion. See State v. Knight, 734 P.2d 913, 918-19, 923 (Utah 1987); Anton v. Thomas, 806 P.2d 744, 747 (Utah App.1991).

In his motion for a new trial, defendant argued that he was denied his constitutional right to a fair trial 2 because Mrs. Carly's alleged disruptive behavior prejudiced the jury.

Defendant is guaranteed the right to a fair trial by the fifth and fourteenth amendments to the United States Constitution. 3 However, defendant bears the burden of proof in establishing he was denied a fair trial. 4 Therefore, on appeal, defendant must persuade us that Mrs. Carly's courtroom conduct prejudiced the outcome of defendant's trial such that the trial court abused its discretion by denying defendant's motions for a mistrial and for a new trial.

The precise issue of when disruptive courtroom behavior necessitates a new trial has not been considered by Utah's appellate courts. However, the Utah Supreme Court has considered fair trial issues in other contexts, such as the appearance of defendant in prison clothes 5 and pre-trial publicity. 6 The Utah Supreme Court has given trial courts great latitude in preserving the integrity of the trial process. 7 Generally, problems of extraneous publicity have not been found to require a new trial unless jurors have been actually exposed to such extreme information that the foundation is laid for actual bias. See State v. Wood, 648 P.2d 71, 89 (Utah 1981).

Courts from other jurisdictions which have addressed the effects of disruptive courtroom conduct have concluded the defendant bears a heavy burden in seeking a new trial. As the Supreme Court of South Carolina stated: "[V]erdicts should not be set aside by an appellate court for misconduct in a trial, unless the evidence is clear and convincing that extraneous influences so interfered with the conduct of the trial, or so pressed upon the jury, as to become factors in the result." State v. Stewart, 278 S.C. 296, 295 S.E.2d 627, 631 (1982) (citation omitted). Some courts require that the jury actually be prejudiced by the conduct. 8 Colorado courts emphasize that "[i]t is only in extraordinary circumstances that a mistrial is necessary to prevent an injustice from resulting because of an extraneous event in the courtroom." People v. Montgomery, 743 P.2d 439, 442 (Colo.App.1987). 9 Other jurisdictions have emphasized that a new trial may be unnecessary if the trial judge has properly instructed the jury to disregard the disruption. 10 Finally, most courts trust the discretion of the trial judge to appropriately handle and to determine whether the disorder in the courtroom merits a new trial. 11

Two cases are particularly helpful in our analysis because of their remarkable factual resemblance to the case before us. In State v. Domangue, 350 So.2d 599 (La.1977), the victim's husband began to weep during defense counsel's closing argument. The trial judge, who was not aware of the crying until it was called to his attention, noted that it was "hardly audible" and unlikely to influence the jury. Nevertheless, the judge instructed the jury to ignore the incident. The appellate court found no abuse of the trial judge's discretion. See id. at 602.

A similar result was reached in State v. Craft, 85 Ariz. 143, 333 P.2d 728 (1958). Defense counsel argued, in his motion for a new trial, that the mother of the decedent exclaimed within the hearing of the jury, "He killed my baby, he killed my baby." The bystander was quietly removed from court. Defendant's counsel claimed there had been significant commotion in the courtroom which interrupted his closing argument. The trial judge did not hear the remark and did not observe any juror reacting to the remark. The trial court, therefore, denied the motion for a new trial. The Supreme Court of Arizona held the trial judge was in the best position to determine whether the jury was influenced and, therefore, affirmed the order denying a new trial. 12 See id., 333 P.2d at 730.

The record indicates that Mrs. Carly created, at most, a minor disturbance in the courtroom. In support of his motion for a new trial, defense counsel filed an affidavit of a member of the audience, the wife of the attorney for the codefendant, who claimed to have observed Mrs. Carly's behavior. This witness stated:

While I was at the trial I observed [Mrs. Carly] throwing her hands in the air and saying out loud "that's not true," then getting teary eyed and always trying to make eye contact with the jury. She would shake her head a lot if she didn't agree. This all happened several times a day. She was constantly talking to the officer sitting next to her, saying "that's not true," etc. She was disruptive to me and to people in the courtroom. Whenever she went into all this everyone looked over at her.

During the trial, whenever anyone came to the door that she knew, she would smile and wave her hand like she hadn't seen them for years.

She constantly put her head in her hands and started crying (every time they told something about her children or her).

During closing argument I observed [Mrs. Carly] throw her arms in the air, shake her head, and say "that's not true"--she would sigh and start to cry and turn to the jury whenever she disagreed. She was disruptive.

The affiant reports that Mrs. Carly's disruptive behavior occurred "several times a day." Both trial counsel and counsel on appeal, however, only challenge conduct allegedly occurring during defense counsel's closing argument. This, undoubtedly, is because Mrs. Carly was only in the courtroom during her own testimony before the jury and closing argument. Both parties had stipulated that witnesses would be excluded from the courtroom.

The trial judge recorded his observations of Mrs. Carly's conduct during closing argument at the conclusion of trial when defendant moved for a mistrial and again at the hearing of defendant's motion for a new trial. The court noted:

As far as eye contact and conduct of any part here, you know, occasionally I saw some of the jurors glance away, but by and large, the jurors were very attentive, by my observation, as to what was being said. I think this is a good jury. They tried to pay attention to the arguments of the attorneys. That was my observation.

I think during the time that the court heard the closing arguments, the court did not observe any actions by [Mrs. Carly] or anyone else in the courtroom. And if I recall correctly, as [defense counsel...

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8 cases
  • State v. Ekstrom
    • United States
    • Utah Court of Appeals
    • November 15, 2013
    ...face and lost consciousness and remained unconscious for several hours after being kicked and stomped in the head); State v. Boone, 820 P.2d 930, 937 (Utah Ct.App.1991) (concluding that a reasonable jury could have found that victim suffered bodily injury when, after being hit in the mouth ......
  • State v. Beltran-Felix
    • United States
    • Utah Court of Appeals
    • July 5, 1996
    ..."Defendant is guaranteed the right to a fair trial by the [F]ifth ... amendment[ ] to the United States Constitution." State v. Boone, 820 P.2d 930, 932 (Utah App.1991) (footnote omitted). "However, defendant bears the burden of proof in establishing he was denied a fair trial." Id. (footno......
  • State v. Burk
    • United States
    • Utah Court of Appeals
    • October 23, 1992
    ...trial court's denial of defendant's motion for a new trial unless we determine the court has abused its discretion." State v. Boone, 820 P.2d 930, 932 (Utah App.1991) (citing State v. Knight, 734 P.2d 913, 918-19, 923 (Utah 1987); Anton v. Thomas, 806 P.2d 744, 747 (Utah App.1991)). Burk cl......
  • State v. Price
    • United States
    • Utah Court of Appeals
    • December 14, 1995
    ...A defendant has the burden of persuading this court that the conduct complained of prejudiced the outcome of the trial. State v. Boone, 820 P.2d 930, 932 (Utah App.1991). After reviewing the record, we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying defendant's motion ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Practice Pointers
    • United States
    • Utah State Bar Utah Bar Journal No. 2-2, February 1989
    • Invalid date
    ...Servs. v. Perkins, 918 P.2d 480, 485 (Utah Ct. App. 1996). [11]See State v. Price, 909 P.2d 256, 262 (Utah Ct. App. 1995); State v. Boone, 820 P.2d 930, 932 (Utah Ct. App. 1991). [12] Except, of course, for the motion to have the jury correct or clarify its verdict before discharge under Ut......

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