State v. Lankford

Citation113 Idaho 688,747 P.2d 710
Decision Date29 July 1987
Docket Number16170,Nos. 15760,s. 15760
PartiesSTATE of Idaho, Plaintiff-respondent, v. Bryan Stuart LANKFORD, Defendant-appellant. Bryan Stuart LANKFORD, Petitioner-appellant, v. STATE of Idaho, Respondent.
CourtIdaho Supreme Court

Fitzgerald, Sims & Fisher, Lewiston, for appellant. Joan M. Fisher (argued).

Jim Jones, Atty. Gen., Boise, for respondent. Solicitor Gen. Lynn E. Thomas (argued).

BAKES, Justice.

Bryan Lankford was convicted by a jury of two counts of first degree murder for the killings of Robert and Cheryl Bravence. Following the trial, the district court held a sentencing hearing and sentenced the defendant to death. Lankford appeals this conviction and sentence and the district court's denial of his petition for post conviction relief before the same court, which was denied after a hearing. The appeals have been consolidated pursuant to I.C. § 19-2719. This matter is additionally before the Court under the statutory provisions of I.C. § 19-2827 which provides for automatic review of death sentences.

Evidence at trial disclosed that in June, 1983, Lankford was living in Texas on probation for a robbery conviction. Lankford was arrested for a DUI violation. Fearing that this violation of his probation would lead to his imprisonment, he fled the state with his older brother, Mark Lankford, in the latter's car. The pair eventually made their way to Idaho County, where they camped in the forest near Grangeville. They concluded that, because the monthly payments on Mark Lankford's car were delinquent, the police would be searching for it and that they needed to abandon the car to avoid capture. They left the car in the woods covered with brush and set off to steal another car.

The brothers came upon the Bravences' campsite and decided to take the Bravences' van. Bryan Lankford walked into the camp armed with a shotgun and engaged the Bravences in conversation. Subsequently, Mrs. Bravence left the group and went to a nearby creek. At this point, Mark Lankford ran into the campsite and ordered Robert Bravence to kneel down on the ground. While kneeling, Mark then hit Robert Bravence over the head with a nightstick. Cheryl Bravence then came up from the creek, and Mark told her to kneel down on the ground and then hit her over the head with the same nightstick. The Bravences were beaten with such force that their skulls had to be reconstructed by an anthropologist before the cause of death could be scientifically determined.

The brothers loaded the bodies into the van and headed back into the forest. The bodies were removed from the van and concealed under branches and other debris a short distance from where the Lankfords had abandoned their car. Lankford and his brother then took the van and traveled through Oregon and California before abandoning it in Los Angeles. During their flight from the murder scene they purchased accommodations and food with the Bravences' credit card.

After abandoning the van, the brothers returned to Texas where they stayed several weeks with Ray Ralmuto, a friend of Although the Bravences' bodies were not found until late September, they had been reported missing and, upon discovering the van, the Los Angeles Police Department conducted a forensic examination of the vehicle. The examination turned up numerous incriminating items, including the Lankfords' fingerprints. The Los Angeles police then turned the investigation over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

[113 Idaho 692] Lankford's. Fearing that the authorities were closing in on them, they fled into a remote and inaccessible area of the state where they were ultimately discovered and captured. Among the items found with the Lankfords was a knife which had belonged to Mr. Bravence.

After his arrest Lankford made numerous confessions regarding the killings, none of which were challenged on direct appeal. 1 These statements included two statements made to Texas law enforcement officers, several statements and a written confession to an FBI agent and, after an aborted suicide attempt, Lankford made another statement to an Idaho County deputy sheriff. After Lankford was extradited to Idaho, he was charged with two counts of first degree murder. An attorney was appointed to represent Lankford.

The trial was held in March, 1984. In the process of jury selection, in accord with a stipulation by the parties, the trial court separated from the venire all persons who had heard a significant amount of information about the case in order that the jury could be selected from people who had heard little of the case. Voir dire then took place as to the remaining jurors. No significant difficulty was experienced in selecting the jury.

Lankford's defense theory was that he was only an accessory after the fact. Lankford testified in his own behalf and stated that he was dominated by his older brother who was a violent and dangerous person. He testified that he thought his brother would merely knock out the Bravences, and he had not pointed the shotgun at them upon entering the camp. He also testified that after the murders he was hysterical and remained in the van while his brother hid the bodies in the woods. The jury nevertheless found Lankford guilty of two counts of first degree murder.

Subsequent to conviction and sentencing, Lankford filed a petition seeking post conviction relief and moved to disqualify the district judge from presiding at the post conviction relief hearing on the basis of prejudice. The motion was denied. At the post conviction hearing, Lankford argued that his trial counsel had been ineffective for a number of reasons, including his failure to demand that Lankford be subject to a psychological and physical evaluation. The defendant further argued that the trial court had erred in failing to require trial counsel to be forced to submit to an alcohol evaluation. After a hearing, the court denied post conviction relief.

On appeal to this Court, Lankford raises twenty-two issues. Eight of these issues arose from the trial proceedings; nine of the issues questioned the sentencing procedure; two issues dealt with the post conviction relief proceeding; and three issues relate to this Court's statutorily required automatic review of a death sentence. While this Court has reviewed all twenty-two issues, we have found that some were not raised below and thus were not preserved for appeal. Several issues are closely related, and we have consolidated them. For the reasons set out below, we affirm the judgments and sentences.

I Direct Appeal Issues

At the outset we note that the defendant appealing from a criminal conviction bears the burden of demonstrating error in the lower court. State v. Wallace, 98 Idaho 318, 563 P.2d 42 (1977). Furthermore, error will not be presumed on appeal but must be affirmatively shown by the appellant, and with limited exceptions error at trial must be properly objected to and preserved

[113 Idaho 693] to merit review. State v. Thomas, 94 Idaho 430, 489 P.2d 1310 (1971). 2 Keeping in mind the standards of review set by our prior case law, we now turn to the issues.


Lankford argues that the trial court failed to question jurors regarding the adverse effect of pretrial publicity, and therefore he was denied his constitutional right to a trial by a fair and impartial jury. Lankford acknowledges that no objection was raised below as to the voir dire process, and therefore the issue is not properly preserved for appeal, absent fundamental error. State v. White, supra. However, Lankford argues nevertheless that the failure to question jurors regarding pretrial publicity amounted to fundamental error.

The trial court initially questioned jurors regarding pretrial publicity and, based upon a procedure agreed on in advance by counsel, then eliminated all those who felt that they could not fairly try the case. 3 Thereafter, the trial court conducted a limited voir dire examination and the balance of the voir dire process was conducted by counsel. Lankford has not established any error, much less fundamental error, in the jury selection process. This Court has ruled that great latitude is to be allowed in examination of veniremen upon voir dire. See State v. Pontier, 95 Idaho 707, 518 P.2d 969 (1974); State v. Bitz, 93 Idaho 239, 460 P.2d 374 (1969). The voir dire procedure was established by stipulation of counsel, and there is no indication of any abuse of discretion by the trial court in the manner in which he exercised the voir dire examination. Accordingly, the claimed error is without merit.


Next, Lankford asserts that it was a "fundamental error" and a violation of due process for the trial court to allow uniformed sheriff's deputies to sit in the courtroom with him. We disagree. The fact that Lankford was guarded while present at the trial fails to raise the question of fundamental constitutional error. The record demonstrates that Lankford did not appear in prison garb, State v. Crawford, 99 Idaho 87, 577 P.2d 1135 (1978); rather, at trial he appeared in a three-piece suit. A sheriff's officer sat behind him. In Holbrook v. Flynn, 475 U.S. 560, 106 S.Ct. 1340, 89 L.Ed.2d 525 (1986), the United States Supreme Court addressed the issue of whether the presence of four uniformed and armed officers was so inherently prejudicial that the defendant was denied his constitutional right to a fair trial. Writing for the majority, Justice Marshall found that unlike cases which involved a criminal defendant being brought to trial in prison garb the presence of the uniformed troopers "We do not minimize the threat that a roomful of uniformed and armed policemen might pose to a defendant's chances of receiving a fair trial. (Citations omitted.) But we simply cannot find an unacceptable risk of prejudice in the spectacle of four such officers quietly sitting in the first row of the courtroom's spectator section. (...

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29 cases
  • State v. Lankford, Docket No. 35617
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • July 3, 2017
    ...while camping in the Sheep Creek area of Idaho County. State v. Lankford , 116 Idaho 860, 781 P.2d 197 (1989) ; State v. Lankford , 113 Idaho 688, 747 P.2d 710 (1987). Bryan's death sentence was overturned by the Supreme Court of the United States because the State failed to provide him wit......
  • State v. Lankford
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • July 3, 2017
    ...while camping in the Sheep Creek area of Idaho County. State v. Lankford , 116 Idaho 860, 781 P.2d 197 (1989) ; State v. Lankford , 113 Idaho 688, 747 P.2d 710 (1987). Bryan's death sentence was overturned by the Supreme Court of the United States because the State failed to provide him wit......
  • State v. Wood
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • October 9, 1998
    ......Lankford, 113 Idaho 688, 747 P.2d 710 (1987), overruled by Lankford v. Idaho, 500 U.S. 110, 111 S.Ct. 1723, 114 L.Ed.2d 173 (1991), 3 the record in this case reflects that on September 14, 1993, the district court expressly advised Wood that the death penalty was a possible sentence for the crimes with ......
  • State v. Lankford
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • July 10, 1989
    ...instructions must be considered together, without particular weight being given to one as opposed to the others. State v. Bryan Lankford, 113 Idaho 688, 694, 747 P.2d 710 (1987). The trial court instructed the jury that the State must prove all elements for crimes charged beyond a reasonabl......
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