State v. Clements, No. 35665.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Idaho
Writing for the CourtBurdick
Citation218 P.3d 1143
Decision Date15 October 2009
Docket NumberNo. 35665.
PartiesSTATE of Idaho, Plaintiff-Appellant-Cross Respondent, v. Michael Edwin CLEMENTS, Defendant-Respondent-Cross Appellant.
218 P.3d 1143
STATE of Idaho, Plaintiff-Appellant-Cross Respondent,
v.
Michael Edwin CLEMENTS, Defendant-Respondent-Cross Appellant.
No. 35665.
Supreme Court of Idaho, Boise, August 2009 Term.
October 15, 2009.

[218 P.3d 1144]

Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General, Boise, for appellant. Kenneth K. Jorgensen, Deputy Attorney General, argued.

Molly J. Huskey, Idaho Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for respondent. Diane Walker, Deputy Appellate Public Defender, argued.

BURDICK, Justice.


This case arises out of the 1994 shooting death of Mary Ellen Johnson and shooting of Lori Anne Oakes. Respondent Michael Edwin Clements pled guilty to second-degree murder with a firearm enhancement for the death of Johnson and attempted second-degree murder with a firearm enhancement for the shooting of Oakes. The district court sentenced Clements to life with fifteen years fixed for second-degree murder plus fifteen years for the firearm enhancement, and fifteen years with ten years fixed for attempted second-degree murder plus five years for the firearm enhancement. Approximately ten years later, Clements filed an Idaho Criminal Rule 35 motion, arguing that he was illegally sentenced for two weapon enhancements because both shootings arose from the same indivisible course of conduct under I.C. § 19-2520E. The district court reversed Clements's judgment of conviction and sentence for attempted second-degree murder with a firearm enhancement and resentenced him to fifteen years with ten years fixed, with credit for time served. The State appealed and the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the district court lacked authority to consider the underlying facts of the case in determining that Clements's sentence for attempted second-degree murder was illegal. Clements petitioned this Court for review. We find that the district court lacked authority under Rule 35 to examine the underlying facts of Clements's case.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In 1994, Clements shot Johnson and Oakes, and Johnson died as a result of the shooting. The State charged Clements with first-degree murder with a firearm enhancement for the death of Johnson, attempted first-degree murder with a firearm enhancement for the shooting of Oakes, and burglary. Clements entered into a plea bargain where, in exchange for his guilty pleas to the reduced charges of second-degree murder with a firearm enhancement and attempted second-degree murder with a firearm enhancement, the State dismissed the burglary charge and a felony intimidating a witness charge from a separate case and recommended concurrent sentences. The district court sentenced Clements to life with fifteen years fixed for second-degree murder plus fifteen years for the firearm enhancement, and fifteen years with ten years fixed for attempted second-degree murder plus five years for the firearm enhancement, with credit for time served. Clements appealed. On October 3, 1996, the Idaho Court of Appeals affirmed Clements's judgment of conviction and sentence in an unpublished opinion.

Approximately ten years later, on May 26, 2006, Clements filed a pro se Rule 35 motion to correct an illegal sentence. The basis of Clements's motion was that he was illegally sentenced for two firearm enhancements because the shootings arose from the same indivisible course of conduct. Idaho Code § 19-2520, Idaho's weapons enhancement statute, is limited by I.C. § 19-2520E, which provides in pertinent part: "[A]ny person convicted of two (2) or more substantive

218 P.3d 1145

crimes provided for in [I.C. § 19-2520], which crimes arose out of the same indivisible course of conduct, may only be subject to one (1) enhanced penalty." Clements was appointed counsel for his Rule 35 motion, and the district court heard argument. After reviewing the transcript of the preliminary hearing held on September 20, 1994, the district court determined that Clements shot both victims in rapid succession and, therefore, the crimes "arose out of the same indivisible course of conduct." The district court determined that once it vacated one of Clements's sentences, it had no reason to vacate the remaining legal sentence. The district court granted Clements's Rule 35 motion in part and vacated his judgment of conviction and sentence for attempted second-degree murder with the firearm enhancement. On September 11, 2006, the district court conducted another sentencing hearing for the count of attempted second-degree murder. Clements was resentenced to fifteen years with ten years fixed, and was given credit for time served.

The State appealed, asserting that the district court lacked authority to examine the underlying facts of Clements's case in order to determine whether his original enhanced sentence for attempted second-degree murder was illegal. Clements filed a pro se cross-appeal, arguing the district court should have invalidated both of his sentences after finding that the imposition of the two weapons enhancements was illegal. Clements was appointed a public defender for his appeal. On May 29, 2008, the Idaho Court of Appeals reversed the district court's order, holding that the district court lacked authority to examine the underlying facts of Clements's case before concluding that his sentence was illegal. This Court granted Clements's petition for review. We reverse the district court's order and remand.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

"On review of a case from the Court of Appeals, this Court gives due consideration to the Court of Appeals' decision, but directly reviews the decision of the trial court." State v. Bishop, 146 Idaho 804, 810, 203 P.3d 1203, 1209 (2009).

Idaho Criminal Rule 35 is a narrow rule that allows a trial court to correct an illegal sentence at any time, or to correct a sentence imposed in an illegal manner within 120 days. State v. Farwell, 144 Idaho 732, 735, 170 P.3d 397, 400 (2007); I.C.R. 35. "Generally, whether a sentence is illegal or whether it was imposed in an illegal manner is a question of law, over which we exercise free review." Farwell, 144 Idaho at 735, 170 P.3d at 400.

III. ANALYSIS

On appeal, the State asserts that the district court lacked authority under Rule 35 to examine the underlying facts of Clements's case in determining whether his original enhanced sentence for attempted second-degree murder was illegal. The question before this Court is whether the scope of review under Rule 35 permitted the district court to review the underlying facts of Clements's crimes before determining that his sentence was illegal. In order to resolve this issue, we must first determine what constitutes an "illegal sentence" under Rule 35.

A. A trial court cannot examine the underlying facts of a crime to which the defendant pled guilty to determine if the sentence is an "illegal sentence" under Rule 35.

Idaho Criminal Rule 35 provides, in pertinent part: "The court may correct an illegal sentence at any time and may correct a sentence that has been imposed in an illegal manner within the time provided herein for the reduction of sentence." The term "illegal sentence" is not defined under Rule 35. "Where the lower court's decision turns on the interpretation of a criminal rule, this Court exercises free review." State v. Castro, 145 Idaho 173, 175, 177 P.3d 387, 389 (2008).

218 P.3d 1146

Idaho Criminal Rule 35 was adopted from Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 35, which originally read: "The court may correct an illegal sentence at any time and may correct a sentence imposed in an illegal manner within the time provided herein for the reduction of sentence." Fed.R.Crim.P. 35 (1944). "[Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 35] `was a codification of existing law and was intended to remove any doubt created by the decision in United States v. Mayer, 235 U.S. 55, 67, 35 S.Ct. 16, 18, 59 L.Ed. 129 [135] [(1914)], as to the jurisdiction of a District Court to correct an illegal sentence after the expiration of the term at which it was entered.'" Hill v. United States, 368 U.S. 424, 430 n. 8, 82 S.Ct. 468, 472 n. 8, 7 L.Ed.2d 417, 422 n. 8 (1962) (quoting Heflin v. United States, 358 U.S. 415, 422, 79 S.Ct. 451, 455, 3 L.Ed.2d 407, 411-12 (1959) (Stewart, J., concurring)). The United States Supreme Court has explained that the function of Fed. R.Crim.P. 35 is narrow: "[A]s the Rule's language and history make clear, the narrow function of Rule 35 is to permit correction at any time of an illegal sentence, not to reexamine errors occurring at the trial or other proceedings prior to the imposition of sentence." Hill, 368 U.S. at 430, 82 S.Ct. at 472, 7 L.Ed.2d at 422.

A number of state court jurisdictions have narrowed review of a motion to correct an illegal sentence, concluding that the determination of whether a sentence is illegal for purpose of the motion is a legal question, and does not permit an evidentiary inquiry. For example, the Florida Supreme Court addressed whether an unsworn motion that alleged a sentencing error and requested a factual determination of the number of criminal episodes actually alleged an "illegal" sentence that could be resolved at any time. State v. Callaway, 658 So.2d 983, 984 (Fla. 1995), receded from on other grounds by Dixon v. State, 730 So.2d 265 (Fla.1999). The Florida Supreme Court limited the definition of "illegal sentence" to include only "those sentencing issues that can be resolved as a matter of law without an evidentiary determination," i.e. sentencing issues that can be determined from the face of the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
145 practice notes
  • State v. Prion, No. 20090839.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Utah
    • 20 Marzo 2012
    ...to re-examine errors occurring at the trial or other proceedings prior to the imposition of sentence.”); State v. Clements, 148 Idaho 82, 218 P.3d 1143, 1146 (2009) (citing to “[a] number of state court jurisdictions” that have concluded “that the determination of whether a sentence is ille......
  • State v. Perry, No. 34846.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • 7 Diciembre 2010
    ...to the Court of Appeals' decision, but directly reviews the decision of the trial court." State v. Clements, 148 Idaho 82, 84, 218 P.3d 1143, 1145 (2009) (quoting State v. Bishop, 146 Idaho 804, 810, 203 P.3d 1203, 1209 (2009)).III. DISCUSSION A. Prior False Allegation of a Sex Crime under ......
  • State v. Perry, 34846.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • 7 Diciembre 2010
    ...to the Court of Appeals' decision, but directly reviews the decision of the trial court." State v. Clements, 148 Idaho 82, 84, 218 P.3d 1143, 1145 (2009) (quoting State v. Bishop, 146 Idaho 804, 810, 203 P.3d 1203, 1209 (2009) ).III. DISCUSSIONA. Prior False Allegation of a Sex Crime under ......
  • State Of Idaho v. Perry, 2008 Opinion No. 83
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • 8 Julio 2010
    ...to the Court of Appeals' decision, but directly reviews the decision of the trial court." State v. Clements, 148 Idaho 82, _, 218 P.3d 1143, 1145 (2009) (quoting State v. Bishop, 146 Idaho 804, 810, 203 P.3d 1203, 1209 (2009)).III. DISCUSSION A. Prior False Allegation of a Sex Crime under I......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
145 cases
  • State v. Prion, No. 20090839.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Utah
    • 20 Marzo 2012
    ...to re-examine errors occurring at the trial or other proceedings prior to the imposition of sentence.”); State v. Clements, 148 Idaho 82, 218 P.3d 1143, 1146 (2009) (citing to “[a] number of state court jurisdictions” that have concluded “that the determination of whether a sentence is ille......
  • State v. Perry, No. 34846.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • 7 Diciembre 2010
    ...to the Court of Appeals' decision, but directly reviews the decision of the trial court." State v. Clements, 148 Idaho 82, 84, 218 P.3d 1143, 1145 (2009) (quoting State v. Bishop, 146 Idaho 804, 810, 203 P.3d 1203, 1209 (2009)).III. DISCUSSION A. Prior False Allegation of a Sex Crime u......
  • State v. Perry, 34846.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • 7 Diciembre 2010
    ...to the Court of Appeals' decision, but directly reviews the decision of the trial court." State v. Clements, 148 Idaho 82, 84, 218 P.3d 1143, 1145 (2009) (quoting State v. Bishop, 146 Idaho 804, 810, 203 P.3d 1203, 1209 (2009) ).III. DISCUSSIONA. Prior False Allegation of a Sex Crime u......
  • State Of Idaho v. Perry, 2008 Opinion No. 83
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • 8 Julio 2010
    ...to the Court of Appeals' decision, but directly reviews the decision of the trial court." State v. Clements, 148 Idaho 82, _, 218 P.3d 1143, 1145 (2009) (quoting State v. Bishop, 146 Idaho 804, 810, 203 P.3d 1203, 1209 (2009)).III. DISCUSSION A. Prior False Allegation of a Sex Crime un......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT