State v. Lee

Decision Date09 January 2014
Docket NumberNo. 20110707–CA.,20110707–CA.
Citation318 P.3d 1164,751 Utah Adv. Rep. 16
CourtUtah Court of Appeals
PartiesSTATE of Utah, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. Joseph Logan LEE, Defendant and Appellant.


Randall W. Richards, for Appellant.

Sean D. Reyes, Karen A. Klucznik, and John J. Nielsen, for Appellee.

Judge MICHELE M. CHRISTIANSEN authored this Opinion, in which Judge GREGORY K. ORME concurred. Judge J. FREDERIC VOROS JR. concurred, with opinion.


¶ 1 Joseph Logan Lee appeals from his conviction for murder, a first degree felony, and for unlawful possession of a firearm and for failure to stop at the command of a police officer, both third degree felonies. We affirm.


¶ 2 Lee met with the victim, T.H., on June 1, 2006, to settle a drug debt owed to T.H. by a friend of Lee's.1 At some point during the exchange, T.H. was leaning through the open driver's window of Lee's car when Lee pulled out a handgun. While the parties dispute what happened next, Lee ultimately fired two shots, one of which struck T.H. and killed him almost instantly. Lee fled the scene but later that day was identified and pursued by police, who apprehended Lee after his vehicle struck a median and was disabled. Subsequent to Lee's arrest, police found two speed-loaders for a .357 magnum revolver on Lee's person and a .357 magnum revolver on the driver's floorboard of Lee's car. Lee was charged by information based on the shooting and his flight from police.

¶ 3 Lee retained private counsel (Trial Counsel) to represent him. Trial Counsel entered his appearance at a May 10, 2007 hearing and notified the trial court that he would be filing a motion in limine seeking to admit the testimony of a proposed defense witness. Trial Counsel had difficulty timely filing the motion and requested additional time on at least three occasions. Trial Counsel ultimately filed the motion approximately ten days after the final deadline given by the trial court, but the trial court allowed briefing and oral argument on the motion to proceed and ruled on the merits of the motion, granting it in part.

¶ 4 The case proceeded to trial, and Lee argued that he had shot T.H. in self-defense. In support of this theory, Lee introduced testimony that he had met T.H. while the two men were incarcerated at the Utah State Prison, that T.H. often carried a gun, and that Lee was paying off the drug debt because T.H. had threatened a friend of Lee's. Lee testified that just before the shooting he handed the gun to T.H. as a showing of good faith, that T.H. turned the gun on Lee, and that Lee wrestled the gun away from him. Lee testified that he then shot T.H. because he believed T.H. was reaching behind his back for another gun. T.H.'s girlfriend, the only other eyewitness to the shooting, testified for the State that T.H. was unarmed and was not threatening Lee at the time of the shooting. At the close of trial, the court instructed the jury as to both self-defense and imperfect self-defense at Lee's request. The jury found Lee guilty of murder, and he appeals.


¶ 5 As an initial matter, Lee requests a remand for an evidentiary hearing under rule 23B for the development of the record and the entry of factual findings necessary for this court's review of his ineffective assistance of counsel claim. SeeUtah R.App. P. 23B. A remand under rule 23B will only be granted “upon a nonspeculative allegation of facts, not fully appearing in the record on appeal, which, if true, could support a determination that counsel was ineffective.” See id.

¶ 6 Lee claims that he was denied effective assistance of counsel due to multiple alleged deficiencies on the part of Trial Counsel. “An ineffective assistance of counsel claim raised for the first time on appeal presents a question of law.” State v. Ott, 2010 UT 1, ¶ 22, 247 P.3d 344 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

¶ 7 Lee also argues that the trial court erroneously instructed the jury as to the elements of murder and manslaughter in light of Lee's claim of self-defense. “Claims of erroneous jury instructions present questions of law that we review for correctness.” State v. Jeffs, 2010 UT 49, ¶ 16, 243 P.3d 1250.

I. Lee's Rule 23B Motion Is Not Adequately Supported to Warrant Remand for an Evidentiary Hearing.

¶ 8 Lee asserts that a remand for an evidentiary hearing is appropriate to address all of the claims of Trial Counsel's alleged deficiencies that Lee raises on appeal. However, remand under rule 23B is available only upon a motion that alleges nonspeculative facts that do not appear in the record and is accompanied by affidavits setting forth those facts. SeeUtah R.App. P. 23B(a), (b). To succeed on the motion, Lee must “allege facts that if true would show (1) ‘that counsel's performance was so deficient as to fall below an objective standard of reasonableness' and (2) ‘that but for counsel's deficient performance there is a reasonable probability that the outcome of the trial would have been different.’ State v. King, 2012 UT App 203, ¶ 18, 283 P.3d 980 (quoting State v. Hales, 2007 UT 14, ¶ 68, 152 P.3d 321).

A. Claims Based on Record Evidence

¶ 9 Lee argues that Trial Counsel performed deficiently because he did not object to the jury instructions on murder and self-defense, did not comply with the trial court's orders to timely file a motion in limine, and introduced the fact of Lee's prior incarceration during his opening statement and examination of witnesses. However, Lee does not identify any evidence that is not already in the record on appeal to support these claims of ineffective assistance. “A [rule 23B] remand is not necessary if the facts underlying the ineffectiveness claim are contained in the existing record.” State v. Johnston, 2000 UT App 290, ¶ 9, 13 P.3d 175 (per curiam).

¶ 10 Here, all of the jury instructions at issue appear in the record. The trial transcript contains all of the relevant discussions between the court and counsel regarding the jury instructions and Trial Counsel's waiver of objections to the final jury instructions. The record also includes transcripts of the hearings in which the untimely motion in limine were discussed, the motion itself, all supporting and responsive briefing, and the trial court's ruling on the motion. Finally, Trial Counsel's opening statement in which he referred to Lee's prior incarceration is part of the trial transcript in the record. As a result, Lee has not demonstrated that any additional non-record evidence is available to support these claims on appeal, and remand is therefore inappropriate. See id.

B. Claims Based on Non–Record Evidence

¶ 11 Lee also argues that Trial Counsel performed deficiently because he failed to adequately investigate the case and to call a witness who Lee claims would have supported his self-defense claim (the Witness). However, a rule 23B motion must include “affidavits alleging facts not fully appearing in the record on appeal that show the claimed deficient performance of the attorney” and show “the claimed prejudice suffered by the appellant as a result of the claimed deficient performance.” Utah R.App. P. 23B(b). [T]o obtain a Rule 23B remand, a defendant must not only submit affidavits specifying who the uncalled witnesses are and that they are available to testify at an evidentiary hearing, he must ordinarily submit affidavits from the witnesses detailing their testimony.” Johnston, 2000 UT App 290, ¶ 11, 13 P.3d 175. To show that counsel's failure to investigate resulted in prejudice “as a demonstrable reality and not a speculative matter,” a rule 23B movant must identify exculpatory testimony or evidence that his attorney failed to uncover. See State v. Bryant, 2012 UT App 264, ¶ 23, 290 P.3d 33 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted) (concluding that no prejudice resulted from trial counsel's failure to investigate because defendant did not identify any evidence that his trial counsel allegedly failed to discover).

¶ 12 Here, Lee did not support his rule 23B motion with an affidavit from the Witness. Lee also has not identified any particular evidence, other than his proffer of the Witness's potential testimony, that Trial Counsel failed to uncover. Lee offered affidavits only from his mother and a member of his appellate counsel's staff averring that Trial Counsel did not hire a private investigator and may not have adequately reviewed the Witness's statement. However, Lee cannot meet his burden by merely pointing out what counsel did not do; he must bring forth the evidence that would have been available in the absence of counsel's deficient performance. See id.; Johnston, 2000 UT App 290, ¶ 7, 13 P.3d 175 (“The purpose of Rule 23B is for appellate counsel to put on evidence he or she now has, not to amass evidence that might help prove an ineffectiveness of counsel claim.”). Absent affidavits demonstrating a likelihood that further review of the Witness's testimony or inquiry by an investigator would have uncovered evidence sufficient to support Lee's claims, remand for an evidentiary hearing is not appropriate. We therefore deny Lee's motion for a remand under rule 23B. 2

II. Lee Has Not Demonstrated That Trial Counsel Was Ineffective.

¶ 13 Lee argues that Trial Counsel was ineffective by failing to adequately investigate the case, failing to call the Witness at trial, failing to comply with the trial court's deadlines for filing a motion in limine, and introducing the fact of Lee's prior incarceration in opening statements and witness examination. To succeed on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, a defendant must show both “that counsel's performance was deficient” and “that the deficient performance prejudiced the defense.” Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984). To establish that counsel's performance was deficient, a defendant “must show that counsel's representation fell below an...

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