State v. Geukgeuzian, No. 20020460.

CourtSupreme Court of Utah
Writing for the CourtDURRANT, Associate Chief Justice
Citation86 P.3d 742,2004 UT 16
Decision Date24 February 2004
Docket NumberNo. 20020460.
PartiesState of Utah, Plaintiff and Petitioner, v. Stephen Lamar Geukgeuzian, Defendant and Respondent.

2004 UT 16
86 P.3d 742

State of Utah, Plaintiff and Petitioner,
v.
Stephen Lamar Geukgeuzian, Defendant and Respondent

No. 20020460.

Supreme Court of Utah.

FILED February 24, 2004.


This opinion is subject to revision before final publication in the Pacific Reporter

Mark L. Shurtleff, Att'y Gen., J. Frederic Voros, Jr. Asst. Att'y Gen., Salt Lake City, for plaintiff.

Kendall S. Peterson, Jerald V. Hale, Salt Lake City, for defendant.

DURRANT, Associate Chief Justice:

¶1 Defendant Stephen Lamar Geukgeuzian was convicted of tampering with a witness. The court of appeals reversed his conviction, reasoning that the trial court's failure to include a mens rea element in its jury instruction resulted in manifest injustice. We conclude that defendant invited the error when he proposed a jury instruction that purported to include all the essential elements of the offense but, like the trial court's instruction he challenges on appeal, failed to include a mens rea element. We reverse and remand.

BACKGROUND

¶2 "We recite the facts from the record . . . in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict." State v. Casey, 2003 UT 55, ¶ 2, 82 P.3d 1106 (quotation omitted).

¶3 In May 2000, Geukgeuzian was charged with tampering with a witness in violation of Utah Code section 76-8-508(1),1

and with making a false written statement in violation of Utah Code section 76-8-504(2). During his trial, Geukgeuzian proposed a jury instruction that recited almost verbatim the elements listed in the witness tampering statute. His proposed instruction concluded with the following:
If you find the evidence has failed to prove any one or more of these essential elements to your satisfaction beyond a reasonable doubt, then it would be your duty to find the defendant not guilty of TAMPERING WITH A WITNESS, a Third Degree Felony, as charged in the Information. On the other hand, if you find from the evidence received during the trial that the State has proven each and every one of those essential elements beyond a reasonable doubt, it would be your duty to find the defendant guilty of the offense of TAMPERING WITH A WITNESS, a Third Degree Felony.

¶4 The State proposed an instruction that also tracked the statutory elements of tampering with a witness. Neither set of proposed instructions contained direct reference to a separate culpable mental state apart from the language of the statute requiring that a defendant act "believing that an official proceeding or investigation is pending or about to be instituted." See Utah Code Ann. § 76-8-508(1). Relying on the proposed instructions submitted by both parties, the trial court gave a jury instruction very similar to that proposed by both Geukgeuzian and the State with no separate mens rea requirement.2 Geukgeuzian entered no objection to the court's instruction and was subsequently found guilty of tampering with a witness. He moved for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, which the trial court denied.

¶5 Geukgeuzian appealed his conviction, arguing that the trial court erred by failing to include in its jury instructions the mens rea needed to establish that a defendant tampered with a witness. The court of appeals agreed, reasoning that because the witness tampering statute specifies no mens rea for the attempt or inducement element, the trial court was required to include in its instruction the requirement that Geukgeuzian must have acted with intent, knowledge, or recklessness as specified in Utah Code section 76-2-102.3 The court of appeals rejected the State's contention that Geukgeuzian invited the error by omitting the challenged element in his own proposed instructions. The court cited to its prior decision in State v. Chaney, 1999 UT App 309, ¶ 53, 989 P.2d 1091, and reasoned that, unlike in Chaney, the State had failed to show that "[Geukgeuzian]'s conduct actually led the trial court into its erroneous action."

¶6 The State appeals the court of appeals' decision, arguing that Geukgeuzian's failure to include a mens rea element in his proposed jury instruction was invited error. This court has jurisdiction pursuant to Utah Code section 78-2-2(3)(a) (2002).

STANDARD OF REVIEW

¶7 "On certiorari, we review the court of appeals' decision for correctness, giving its conclusions of law no deference." State v. Casey, 2003 UT 55, ¶ 10, 82 P.3d 1106 (citing State v. James, 2000 UT 80, ¶ 8, 13 P.3d 576) (further citation omitted).

ANALYSIS

¶8 The State argues that the court of appeals erred in reversing Geukgeuzian's conviction because he invited the error by...

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71 practice notes
  • State v. Alfatlawi, No. 20050678-CA.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Utah
    • December 21, 2006
    ..."cannot take advantage of an error committed at trial when that party led the trial court into committing the error." State v. Geukgeuzian, 2004 UT 16, ¶ 9, 86 P.3d 742 (quotations and citation omitted). A defendant invites error where he "affirmatively approve[s] of the jury instructions" ......
  • State v. McNeil, No. 20100695–CA.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Utah
    • May 23, 2013
    ...176. The doctrine also extends to counsel's failure to object in response to a specific question from the court. See State v. Geukgeuzian, 2004 UT 16, ¶ 10, 86 P.3d 742. ¶ 20 Here, the trial court discussed the detective's preliminary hearing testimony with counsel at length before admittin......
  • State v. Johnson, No. 20140794
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Utah
    • October 3, 2017
    ...of the other arguments that Mr. Johnson briefed, but that were not resolved by the court of appeals. See State v. Geukgeuzian, 2004 UT 16, ¶ 13, 86 P.3d 742 (remanding a case to the court of appeals for consideration of unresolved claims of error).Page 28 ASSOCIATE CHIEF JUSTICE LEE, concur......
  • State v. Davis, No. 20110204–CA.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Utah
    • September 19, 2013
    ...this decision issued. 2. We recite the facts from the record in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict. State v. Geukgeuzian, 2004 UT 16, ¶ 2, 86 P.3d 742. 3. This application of the preservation rule demonstrates that, notwithstanding that such claims allege “prosecutorial miscondu......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
71 cases
  • State v. Alfatlawi, No. 20050678-CA.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Utah
    • December 21, 2006
    ..."cannot take advantage of an error committed at trial when that party led the trial court into committing the error." State v. Geukgeuzian, 2004 UT 16, ¶ 9, 86 P.3d 742 (quotations and citation omitted). A defendant invites error where he "affirmatively approve[s] of the jury instructions" ......
  • State v. McNeil, No. 20100695–CA.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Utah
    • May 23, 2013
    ...176. The doctrine also extends to counsel's failure to object in response to a specific question from the court. See State v. Geukgeuzian, 2004 UT 16, ¶ 10, 86 P.3d 742. ¶ 20 Here, the trial court discussed the detective's preliminary hearing testimony with counsel at length before admittin......
  • State v. Johnson, No. 20140794
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Utah
    • October 3, 2017
    ...of the other arguments that Mr. Johnson briefed, but that were not resolved by the court of appeals. See State v. Geukgeuzian, 2004 UT 16, ¶ 13, 86 P.3d 742 (remanding a case to the court of appeals for consideration of unresolved claims of error).Page 28 ASSOCIATE CHIEF JUSTICE LEE, concur......
  • State v. Davis, No. 20110204–CA.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Utah
    • September 19, 2013
    ...this decision issued. 2. We recite the facts from the record in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict. State v. Geukgeuzian, 2004 UT 16, ¶ 2, 86 P.3d 742. 3. This application of the preservation rule demonstrates that, notwithstanding that such claims allege “prosecutorial miscondu......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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