State v. Johns, No. 16251

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Idaho
Writing for the CourtBAKES; SHEPARD, C.J., and DONALDSON; HUNTLEY; BISTLINE
Citation736 P.2d 1327,112 Idaho 873
PartiesSTATE of Idaho, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Robert JOHNS, Defendant-Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 16251
Decision Date29 April 1987

Page 1327

736 P.2d 1327
112 Idaho 873
STATE of Idaho, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
Robert JOHNS, Defendant-Appellant.
No. 16251.
Supreme Court of Idaho.
April 29, 1987.

Page 1329

[112 Idaho 875] Alan E. Trimming, Ada County Public Defender, Boise, for defendant-appellant.

Jim Jones, Atty. Gen., Lynn E. Thomas, Sol. Gen., and David R. Minert, Deputy Atty. Gen. (argued), Boise, for plaintiff-respondent.

BAKES, Justice.

On March 3, 1985, a body was discovered at Initial Point outside of Kuna, a small rural town in southwestern Idaho. From the condition of the corpse and the presence of fresh blood at the site, police investigators determined that the victim's death had probably just taken place. It was first believed that the victim had been stabbed to death, but sometime later it was determined that a small caliber gun shot had caused the fatal wound. Deputy Mike Lakey arrived at Initial Point and participated in the crime investigation. Upon viewing the body, Lakey tentatively identified the victim to be Don Price whom he knew to have had some problems with the defendant, Robert Johns.

After the tentative identification of the victim as Don Price, Deputy Hamilton was dispatched to Price's residence where he encountered Johns inside Price's apartment. 1 After a brief conversation with a visibly nervous Johns, Hamilton left the apartment. However, he was instructed by radio to take up surveillance of the apartment from a distance. While there, he saw Johns go back and forth from Price's apartment to an adjoining apartment belonging to Johns' girlfriend Julie Halverson. On one such trip, the officer saw Johns remove a large knife from a pickup truck and take it into Halverson's apartment. Hamilton observed the apartment scene until Johns and Halverson attempted to leave the area in a blue pickup truck. Hamilton was instructed by radio to stop Johns and detain him until the detectives arrived.

Hamilton stopped the truck, frisked Johns, handcuffed him and placed him in the back of his patrol car. Johns was not yet formally placed under arrest, and he was not told why he was detained. At this point the deputy observed, in plain view, in the back of Johns' pickup a large amount of fresh blood, as well as a cap which the deputy recognized as that of the victim. Johns was then transported to the police station. Halverson and her daughter were

Page 1330

[112 Idaho 876] also taken to the police station although they were not placed in custody.

Johns was Mirandized at the police station, and extensive interviews ensued. During the course of the interviews, Johns eventually admitted to having killed Don Price. After the interrogation, Johns was charged with first degree murder, robbery, and the use of a firearm on both charges. On April 11, 1985, a preliminary hearing was held and Johns was held to answer on all counts.

Johns filed two motions to suppress his confession. The first motion to suppress alleged that his statements were induced or coerced by threats of prosecuting Halverson or promises that no charges would be filed against her. The second motion to suppress alleged that the confession was gained through an unlawful detention. Johns also filed motions to preclude "death qualifying" the jury and requesting individual sequestered voir dire of potential jurors. Additionally, Johns submitted proposed instructions, including a specific defendant's theory of the case instruction. All four motions were denied by the district court.

Jury trial commenced on August 20, 1985, and concluded on August 28, 1985. The jury returned guilty verdicts on all charges. Johns was sentenced to an indeterminate life term for the murder plus an indeterminate five-year consecutive sentence for use of a firearm, and a ten-year fixed sentence for the robbery plus a five-year consecutive sentence for the use of a firearm. Johns has raised seven issues on appeal. We affirm the judgment.

I

In his first issue raised on appeal Johns contends that the original arrest and detention of the defendant constituted an illegal arrest, rendering all subsequent statements made by him illegally obtained and therefore inadmissible. The facts show that Officer Hamilton stopped Johns as he drove away from the victim's apartment. After asking Johns to get out of the truck, he frisked Johns and removed a knife which he found on him. Then Johns was handcuffed and placed in the patrol car. Officer Hamilton testified that he had handcuffed Johns because Johns appeared to be quite nervous, and Hamilton was concerned for his own safety because Johns was a suspect in what Hamilton thought was a knife killing of Price and the fact that Johns was armed with a knife. However, Johns was not formally placed under arrest at this time.

Johns contends that this detention was an illegal seizure and not an investigatory stop. Although arguably Officer Hamilton had sufficient probable cause at the time he stopped Johns to make a valid arrest, he unequivocally testified that Johns was stopped for investigation of Price's murder and that Johns was not under arrest when he was handcuffed. There is no question but that Officer Hamilton had sufficient reasonable suspicion to effect a "Terry " investigative stop of Johns, given the fact of Price's killing and Officer Hamilton's observing Johns in Price's apartment and later observing him remove a knife from his pickup. The issue, therefore, is whether the handcuffing of Johns negated the legality of Officer Hamilton's investigatory stop.

The United States Supreme Court in Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968), acknowledged the right of police to stop and question a suspect absent sufficient probable cause to make an arrest:

"Each case of this sort will, of course, have to be decided on its own facts. We merely hold today that where a police officer observes unusual conduct which leads him reasonably to conclude in light of his experience that criminal activity may be afoot and that the persons with whom he is dealing may be armed and dangerous, where in the course of investigating this behavior he identifies himself as a policeman and makes reasonable inquiries, and nothing in the initial stages of the encounter serves to dispel his reasonable fear for his own or others' safety, he is entitled for the protection of himself and others near to conduct a carefully limited search of the outer

Page 1331

[112 Idaho 877] clothing of such persons in an attempt to discover weapons which might be used to assault him." 392 U.S. at 30, 88 S.Ct. at 1884-85.

The Terry rationale has been adopted in Idaho. See State v. Cook, 106 Idaho 209, 677 P.2d 522 (1984). Under Terry and under Idaho law, limited stops can be made for investigative purposes and to enhance the safety of the police officer who is conducting an investigation. If the officer's suspicions are confirmed or further aroused, the stop may be prolonged and the scope of the investigative stop enlarged. See State v. Burgess, 104 Idaho 559, 661 P.2d 344 (Ct.App.1983). The standard of proof which a state must satisfy in order to justify an investigatory stop is to be judged by a "totality of the circumstances." State v. Haworth, 106 Idaho 405, 679 P.2d 1123 (1984). See United States v. Cortez, 449 U.S. 411, 101 S.Ct. 690, 66 L.Ed.2d 621 (1981); State v. Cowen, 104 Idaho 649, 662 P.2d 230 (1983); State v. Post, 98 Idaho 834, 573 P.2d 153 (1978). Under the circumstances of this case, it is clear that the trial court did not err in concluding that, based on a totality of the circumstances, the police had sufficient probable suspicion to conduct a Terry stop of Johns.

Officer Hamilton's Terry stop of Johns was based on personal observations of suspicious activity at a murder victim's apartment. Officer Hamilton had sufficient information to provide him with the required reasonable suspicion to make a Terry stop. This information included the following facts. (1) The preliminary investigation had already linked Johns with the victim based on the knowledge of Officers Hamilton and Lakey; 2 (2) when Officer Hamilton arrived at the victim's apartment he found Johns inside; and (3) during Officer Hamilton's surveillance of the apartment scene he observed Johns moving objects in and out of Price's and Halverson's apartments and his pickup truck. The objects being moved by Johns included a large knife, and at the time of the Terry stop the investigators still believed that the victim had been murdered with a knife.

Having determined that the trial court did not err in concluding that Officer Hamilton was justified in making a Terry stop, we must now determine whether the legality of that stop was negated by the subsequent handcuffing of Johns. Officer Hamilton was alone when he stopped a suspected murderer who, it was believed, had killed his victim with a knife. He had earlier observed the suspect remove one knife from the vehicle and when stopped Officer Hamilton found a second knife on the person of the suspect. When Officer Hamilton attempted to remove the knife from Johns, there was some slight resistance. Officer Hamilton testified that Johns was visibly nervous and had lost the color in his face during the stop. Further, Officer Hamilton testified that he was nervous and apprehensive about his own safety. Based on a "totality of the circumstances," we hold that it was entirely reasonable for Officer Hamilton to handcuff Johns for his own safety without negating the legality of the Terry stop.

Once Officer Hamilton made a valid Terry stop of Johns, he was entitled "to maintain the status quo momentarily while obtaining more information." Adams v. Williams, 407 U.S. 143, 146, 92 S.Ct. 1921, 1923, 32 L.Ed.2d 612 (1972). In Terry, the United States Supreme Court addressed the investigating officer's prerogatives when making a Terry stop. The Court stated:

"[T]here must be a narrowly drawn authority to permit a reasonable search for weapons for...

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83 practice notes
  • State v. Lankford, Nos. 15759
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • July 10, 1989
    ...seem reasonable. 4 Those cases we have considered include: State v. Bryan Lankford, 113 Idaho 688, 747 P.2d 710 (1987); State v. Johns, 112 Idaho 873, 736 P.2d 1327 (1987); State v. Stuart, 110 Idaho 163, 715 P.2d 833 (1985); State v. Windsor, 110 Idaho 410, 716 P.2d 1182 (1985); State v. S......
  • Eaton v. State, No. 04-180.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • August 18, 2008
    ...guarantee if it is patently argumentative or unduly emphasizes one aspect of the case. Thomas, 784 P.2d at 240. See State v. Johns, 112 Idaho 873, 736 P.2d 1327 (1987). The form of the instruction remains within the discretion of the trial court provided the substance of the requested theor......
  • Oien v. State, No. 89-203
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • August 17, 1990
    ...guarantee if it is patently argumentative or unduly emphasizes one aspect of the case. Thomas, 784 P.2d at 240. See State v. Johns, 112 Idaho 873, 736 P.2d 1327 (1987). The form of the instruction remains within the discretion of the trial court provided the substance of the requested theor......
  • State v. Lankford, Nos. 15760
    • United States
    • Idaho Supreme Court
    • July 29, 1987
    ...witness in a criminal or civil legal proceeding because of such proceeding." 14 Those cases we have considered include: State v. Johns, 112 Idaho 873, 736 P.2d 1327 (1987); State v. Stuart, 110 Idaho 163, 715 P.2d 833 (1985); State v. Windsor, 110 Idaho 410, 716 P.2d 1182 (1985); State v. S......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
83 cases
  • State v. Lankford, Nos. 15759
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • July 10, 1989
    ...seem reasonable. 4 Those cases we have considered include: State v. Bryan Lankford, 113 Idaho 688, 747 P.2d 710 (1987); State v. Johns, 112 Idaho 873, 736 P.2d 1327 (1987); State v. Stuart, 110 Idaho 163, 715 P.2d 833 (1985); State v. Windsor, 110 Idaho 410, 716 P.2d 1182 (1985); State v. S......
  • Eaton v. State, No. 04-180.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • August 18, 2008
    ...guarantee if it is patently argumentative or unduly emphasizes one aspect of the case. Thomas, 784 P.2d at 240. See State v. Johns, 112 Idaho 873, 736 P.2d 1327 (1987). The form of the instruction remains within the discretion of the trial court provided the substance of the requested theor......
  • Oien v. State, No. 89-203
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • August 17, 1990
    ...guarantee if it is patently argumentative or unduly emphasizes one aspect of the case. Thomas, 784 P.2d at 240. See State v. Johns, 112 Idaho 873, 736 P.2d 1327 (1987). The form of the instruction remains within the discretion of the trial court provided the substance of the requested theor......
  • State v. Lankford, Nos. 15760
    • United States
    • Idaho Supreme Court
    • July 29, 1987
    ...witness in a criminal or civil legal proceeding because of such proceeding." 14 Those cases we have considered include: State v. Johns, 112 Idaho 873, 736 P.2d 1327 (1987); State v. Stuart, 110 Idaho 163, 715 P.2d 833 (1985); State v. Windsor, 110 Idaho 410, 716 P.2d 1182 (1985); State v. S......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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