State v. Gibson, 14425

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Idaho
Citation106 Idaho 54,675 P.2d 33
Docket NumberNo. 14425,14425
PartiesSTATE of Idaho, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Thomas Henry GIBSON, Defendant-Appellant.
Decision Date15 December 1983
Michael J. Vrable, Coeur d'Alene, for defendant-appellant

Jim Jones, Atty. Gen., Lynn E. Thomas, Sol. Gen., and Larry K. Harvey, Chief Deputy Atty. Gen., Boise, for plaintiff-respondent.

SHEPARD, Justice.

This is an appeal from a conviction of first degree murder and from the sentence of death imposed upon that conviction, together with our review of the death sentence pursuant to I.C. § 19-2827. We affirm.

The circumstances surrounding the crime are largely without challenge except as to the location of and who did the actual killing. Some of the most damaging testimony came from the defendant Gibson himself who testified at trial. Gibson was charged with the first degree murder of Kimberly Ann Palmer. Palmer and a friend, Scott Currier, were in Spokane, Washington, where Currier had met members of a motorcycle group. On June 19, 1980, Palmer and Currier left for a camping trip in a blue and white van. On Friday, June 20, Currier and Palmer checked into a Spokane motel which was located a short distance from the residence of Donald Paradis; they immediately checked out of the motel, with Currier stating that his guns had been stolen, that he knew who did it, and that he was going to retrieve them.

Gibson testified that in the early morning hours of June 21, he, Paradis, and Larry Evans, among others, were at the Paradis residence when Currier and Palmer arrived. A fight erupted and Gibson testified that he watched Paradis beat Currier to death with a baseball bat. Gibson testified that he left for a short time, and upon returning found Currier lying on the floor dead or dying. Gibson testified that he saw Kimberly Palmer running out of the house and "as she ran by me I grabbed her, pulled her down to the floor and hit her and knocked her out" because he was afraid she would be calling for help. Gibson testified that he then moved Palmer to the kitchen, put her on the floor, took her pulse, determined that she was still alive, and related that to Larry Evans and that Evans then choked Palmer to death. Gibson testified that he watched the choking and thereafter determined that Palmer was dead.

Gibson testified that he and another then placed Currier's body in a blue sleeping bag while Paradis and Evans placed the Palmer body in a red sleeping bag. The bodies were then placed in the blue and white van, which was driven to a remote area just outside of Post Falls, Idaho. Other testimony indicated that at approximately 6:30 a.m. that Saturday morning, the blue and white van was observed driving up a steep mountain road in a sparsely populated area south of Post Falls, Idaho. Two or three men were in that van, one of whom was wearing a distinctive cap. Gibson testified that the blue and white van stalled going up a hill, rolled backwards and overturned. Gibson stated that he stayed in the van while Paradis moved the body of Kimberly Palmer and Evans moved the body of Scott Currier. The van was then pushed over, abandoned, and Gibson, Paradis and Evans walked back to Post Falls. Gibson stated that he was carrying a rifle rolled up in a blue blanket.

Other testimony placed three men of the general description of Gibson, Paradis and Later that day, the blue and white van was seen turned on its side with debris scattered about just off that mountain road. Upon investigation, the body of Kimberly Palmer was found face down in a small stream nearby and the body of Scott Currier was found inside a sleeping bag. Currier's body was bound with pieces of terrycloth and had been bleeding. A distinctive belt buckle worn by Currier had been cut off. Palmer was found to have been strangled to death.

Evans walking down that road toward Post Falls, Idaho that same morning. The men were all strange to the area and one was carrying a rolled up blue blanket. Three men of the same description were observed entering Post Falls that morning, and they were questioned by the police in Post Falls. One of those men was identified as Gibson and he was carrying a rolled up blue blanket. Another of the three was identified as Paradis.

In the early morning hours of Sunday, June 22, the Paradis residence in Spokane was severely damaged by a fire caused by arson. In the basement of that house was found a rolled up rug, in which were found Currier's missing belt buckle, a lawn dart with traces of blood which matched puncture wounds in Currier's back, and a piece of blue terrycloth which matched the terrycloth found with the body of Currier.

On Monday, June 23, Gibson and a friend left the area; they were apprehended in northern California on June 25. Gibson gave a false statement to California authorities before being returned to the State of Washington where he was charged with the murder of Scott Currier. Following trial, he was acquitted of that charge and extradited to Idaho for the murder of Kimberly Palmer.

At trial, a major issue was raised concerning Idaho's jurisdiction over Gibson and, therefore, much of the State's case consisted of autopsy evidence which showed that the varying state of body decomposition indicated that Currier had been killed some hours before Palmer, and water in Palmer's lungs indicated that Palmer had actually been killed in the streambed in Idaho. That evidence, of course, contradicted the testimony of Gibson that Palmer had been killed in the Paradis' residence in the State of Washington.

Gibson asserts that at the preliminary hearing stage the information should have been dismissed for lack of probable cause, citing I.C.R. 5.1(c):

"If from the evidence the magistrate does not determine that a public offense has been committed or that there is not probable or sufficient cause to believe that the defendant committed such offense, the magistrate shall dismiss the complaint and discharge the defendant."

The standard of review for probable cause findings at the preliminary hearing stage was stated in State v. Owens, 101 Idaho 632, at 636, 619 P.2d 787, at 791 (1979):

"At the preliminary hearing the state is not required to prove the accused's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; it need only prove that a crime was committed and that there is probable cause to believe the accused committed it. [Citations]. The decision of a magistrate that there exists probable cause to bind a defendant over to district court for trial on the charges should be overturned only on a showing that the committing magistrate abused his discretion."

It is also stated that probable cause exists when the court has before it "such evidence as would lead a reasonable person to believe the accused party has probably or likely committed the offense charged." Carey v. State, 91 Idaho 706, at 709, 429 P.2d 836, at 839 (1967); Martinez v. State, 90 Idaho 229, at 232, 409 P.2d 426, at 427 (1965).

Without reciting the testimony, it is sufficient to state that the evidence produced by the State at the preliminary hearing established that a crime had been committed and a reasonable person would believe that Gibson had probably or likely participated in the commission of the offense charged. We find no abuse of the discretion At one point in time, Gibson was represented by the office of public defender for a period of approximately ten days, but during that time no member of that office so much as contacted Gibson. A member of that public defender's office joined the Kootenai County Prosecutor's Office during the time that it was prosecuting Gibson. That attorney was ordered by the prosecutor's office and by the trial court to speak to no one in the prosecutor's office regarding the Gibson case and that attorney faithfully maintained the silence. Nevertheless, Gibson asserts that the mere appearance of impropriety is sufficient to require reversal. We disagree. Gibson has failed to even allege, much less show, any actual prejudice. Annau v. Schutte, 96 Idaho 704, 535 P.2d 1095 (1975); see State v. Hobbs, 101 Idaho 262, 611 P.2d 1047 (1980); State v. Wolfe, 99 Idaho 382, 582 P.2d 728 (1978); Mahaffey v. State, 87 Idaho 233, 392 P.2d 423 (1964). See also Young v. State, 297 Md. 286, 465 A.2d 1149 (1983).

of the magistrate in his finding of probable cause.

Gibson asserts that the trial court should have excluded a statement made by him to a California district attorney since there was no compliance with I.C. § 19-853 in the obtaining of that statement. I.C. § 19-853, in essence, requires that Miranda warnings under certain circumstances be given in writing or otherwise recorded and that the person questioned acknowledge in writing that he has received the Miranda warnings. There is no contention that Gibson did not receive the Miranda warnings or that the actions of the California authorities did not comport with constitutional standards set forth by the United States Supreme Court.

Hence, we restate the issue: should an Idaho court exclude from evidence a statement taken in another jurisdiction admittedly in compliance with the United States constitutional standards but not obtained in compliance with an Idaho statute?

The major purpose behind the exclusionary rule is to assure that police act properly in obtaining evidence from suspects by removing the incentive to do otherwise. Michigan v. DeFillippo, 443 U.S. 31, 99 S.Ct. 2627, 61 L.Ed.2d 343 (1979); United States v. Peltier, 422 U.S. 531, 95 S.Ct. 2313, 45 L.Ed.2d 374 (1975); United States v. Calandra, 414 U.S. 338, 94 S.Ct. 613, 38 L.Ed.2d 561 (1974); Mapp v. Ohio, 367 U.S. 643, 81 S.Ct. 1684, 6 L.Ed.2d 1081 (1961); E. CLEARY, McCORMICK ON EVIDENCE § 166 (2d ed. 1972).

"The deterrent purpose of the exclusionary rule necessarily assumes that the police have engaged in willful, or at the very least negligent, conduct which has deprived the defendant of some right. By refusing to...

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