State v. Longshaw

Decision Date11 June 1998
Docket NumberNo. 960746-CA,960746-CA
Citation961 P.2d 925
Parties345 Utah Adv. Rep. 3 STATE of Utah, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. Charlotte M. LONGSHAW, Defendant and Appellant.
CourtUtah Court of Appeals

Jerome H. Mooney and Wendy M. Lewis, Salt Lake City, for Appellant.

Jan Graham and Thomas B. Brunker, Salt Lake City, for Appellee.

Before WILKINS, BILLINGS and ORME, JJ.

OPINION

ORME, Judge:

Defendant Charlotte Marlene Longshaw, who shot and killed a mourner at her brother's funeral, appeals her conviction for murder, a first degree felony, in violation of Utah Code Ann. § 76-5-203 (Supp.1997). We conclude that the trial court properly denied her motion for a new trial, which was based both upon claims of prosecutorial misconduct and that the evidence was insufficient to support the jury's verdict. We therefore affirm.

FACTS

On April 3, 1995, Longshaw discovered the body of her brother, Aaron Grueber, who had died from a drug overdose. At the time of his death, Aaron was married to Terresa Grueber, from whom he was estranged. At least to some degree, Aaron's family blamed Terresa for Aaron's death. Several days after Aaron's death, his viewing and funeral were held at the Memorial Estates Funeral Home. The viewing was attended by Terresa and members of her family, including Terry Stewart, Terresa's stepfather. Stewart's presence at the viewing reportedly alarmed some Grueber family members because they believed he was carrying a gun. The Gruebers reported the matter to the police and discussed among themselves security concerns for the funeral the following day. Indeed, the funeral was not to go smoothly.

On the day of the funeral, Longshaw was greatly distressed and spent the hour prior to the funeral laying across her brother's corpse, kissing it. Longshaw was also heard to exclaim, "Just put me in with [Aaron] and close the casket so I can go with him." Shortly before the funeral began, Terresa Grueber arrived, again accompanied by Stewart.

John Sloan, another brother of Longshaw, also attended the funeral. Evidencing the strained relations between the Gruebers and Terresa's family, Stewart and Sloan exchanged words, prompting a fight--of all things--to break out in the funeral parlor. Stewart and Sloan grappled with each other for a short time before Longshaw approached them, drew a .22 caliber handgun she had concealed in her waistband, told Stewart to "back off," and then shot him in the side of the chest. The fatal bullet struck Stewart in the ribs, then tore through his diaphragm, liver, lungs, and heart, killing him. After shooting Stewart, Longshaw returned the pistol to her waistband and left the funeral home for the parking lot, where she smoked a cigarette until the police arrived. When the police approached her, Longshaw lifted her shirt to show them the gun and was then taken into custody. She was charged with murder.

At trial, Longshaw premised her defense largely on the claims that she was extremely emotionally distraught at the time of the shooting and that she was intoxicated from taking Valium and Soma before the funeral. She also presented evidence that she suffered from mental illness and that she shot Stewart in defense of herself and her brother. At the conclusion of the seven-day trial, a jury convicted Longshaw of murder. Alleging prosecutorial misconduct, Longshaw filed a motion for a new trial. The trial court denied the motion and sentenced Longshaw to prison for five years to life.

ISSUES

Longshaw raises two arguments on appeal. First, she contends that the prosecution made prejudicial statements about her defense of intoxication during its closing argument and that the trial court erred in denying her motion for a new trial, which was based on this alleged prosecutorial misconduct. Second, Longshaw argues that there was insufficient evidence to convict her, beyond a reasonable doubt, of murder.

PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT

Longshaw contends that the prosecutor made "substantial and prejudicial" misstatements during the rebuttal portion of his closing argument. Specifically, she argues that the prosecutor misstated Utah law regarding voluntary intoxication and its interplay with the elements of manslaughter and negligent homicide. We address Longshaw's prosecutorial misconduct argument under the following standard of review:

In determining whether a given statement constitutes prosecutorial misconduct, the statement must be viewed in light of the totality of the evidence presented at trial. Further, because the trial court is in the best position to determine the impact of a statement upon the proceedings, its rulings ... will not be overturned absent an abuse of discretion.

State v. Cummins, 839 P.2d 848, 852 (Utah Ct.App.1992), cert. denied, 853 P.2d 897 (Utah 1993). Accord State v. Valdez, 30 Utah 2d 54, 60, 513 P.2d 422, 426 (1973) ("If there be no abuse of ... discretion and substantial justice appears to have been done, the appellate court will not reverse the judgment.").

Longshaw's prosecutorial misconduct claim stems from the following exchange during the State's rebuttal closing argument, in which the prosecutor referred to a chart used by defense counsel which mapped out the crimes on which the jury was instructed and each crime's elements:

Mr. Christensen[, the prosecuting attorney]:.... Mr. Mooney[, counsel for defendant,] fails on his diagram to mention what voluntary intoxication also does with regard to criminally negligent types of homicide. Basically it does away with negligent homicide all together. Even when you read the instruction on that--

Mr. Mooney: I am going to object to that, your Honor.

The Court: Excuse me?

Mr. Mooney: I am going to object. That's not the law.

Mr. Christensen: On the contrary, it is.

The Court: Your objection?

Mr. Mooney: My objection is the statement that's been made, it misrepresents the law.

The Court: Members of the jury, as I have told you before, arguments of counsel and statements of counsel are not evidence in this matter. You are to be governed by the law as provided to you and as read to you. If your interpretation of the law is different than what Mr. Christensen is arguing to you, you go by what is contained in the Jury Instructions.

Mr. Christensen: Let's clear that up. Jury Instruction No. 18, I'll read it,

"Voluntary intoxication shall not be a defense to a criminal charge unless such intoxication negates the existence of the mental state which is an element of the offense. However, if recklessness"--manslaughter here is recklessness--"or criminal negligence establishes an element of an offense and the actor is unaware of the risk because of involuntary [sic] intoxication, her awareness is immaterial for a prosecution for that offense."

Again ladies and gentlemen, I have correctly stated the law to you. And negligent homicide for voluntary intoxication doesn't apply. And the first element of manslaughter, her recklessness doesn't apply. 1

Longshaw claims these remarks constitute prosecutorial misconduct. We have enunciated a two-part test whereby we

reverse on the basis of prosecutorial misconduct only if defendant has shown that "the actions or remarks of [prosecuting] counsel call to the attention of the jury a matter it would not be justified in considering in determining its verdict and, if so, under the circumstances of the particular case, whether the error is substantial and prejudicial such that there is a reasonable likelihood that, in its absence, there would have been a more favorable result...."

State v. Cummins, 839 P.2d 848, 852 (Utah Ct.App.1992) (quoting State v. Peters, 796 P.2d 708, 712 (Utah Ct.App.1990)), cert. denied, 853 P.2d 897 (Utah 1993). Accord State v. Span, 819 P.2d 329, 335 (Utah 1991); State v. Boyatt, 854 P.2d 550, 554-55 (Utah Ct.App.), cert. denied, 862 P.2d 1356 (Utah 1993). Longshaw contends that this two-part test has been satisfied: First, she argues that the prosecutor's statements called the jury's attention to a matter it would not be justified in considering, i.e., the inaccurate legal proposition that if Longshaw were voluntarily intoxicated, the jury could not convict her of manslaughter or negligent homicide. Second, according to Longshaw, a more favorable result would have been reasonably likely if the prosecutor had not misled the jury into believing a finding of voluntary intoxication precluded a verdict of manslaughter or negligent homicide.

a. Prosecutorial Misstatement

The State concedes in its brief that the prosecutor's first statement--the one that prompted defense counsel's objection--was a misstatement of the law regarding voluntary intoxication. The State contends, however, that the prosecutor's post-objection statements served to correct his prior mistake. We disagree. Considering the prosecutor's first statement, we think the jury could reasonably have interpreted the prosecutor's convoluted post-objection statements--namely, that "negligent homicide for voluntary intoxication doesn't apply" and that "the first element of manslaughter, her recklessness doesn't apply"--to reinforce, rather than dispel, the prosecutor's earlier, clear-cut, misstatement of the law. Thus, we conclude that, in misstating the law of voluntary intoxication, the prosecutor called to the jury's attention a matter it would not be justified in considering, thereby satisfying the first step of the prosecutorial misconduct test. Cf. State v. Haston, 811 P.2d 929, 933 (Utah Ct.App.1991) (concluding that statement in closing argument by prosecutor, which State conceded was misstatement of law of intoxication, satisfied first part of prosecutorial misconduct test), rev'd on other grounds, 846 P.2d 1276 (Utah 1993) (per curiam).

b. Prejudice

We next face the second step of the prosecutorial misconduct test: whether, under the facts of this case, the error was " 'substantial and prejudicial such that there is a reasonable likelihood that, in its absence, there would have...

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11 cases
  • State v. Calliham
    • United States
    • Utah Supreme Court
    • August 16, 2002
    ...there is a reasonable likelihood that, in its absence, there would have been a more favorable result.'" (quoting State v. Longshaw, 961 P.2d 925, 928 (Utah Ct.App.1998))). ¶ 62 Because Terril did not object to the prosecutor's remarks at trial, he relies upon the doctrines of plain error an......
  • State v. Bair
    • United States
    • Utah Court of Appeals
    • May 1, 2012
    ...prosecutorial misconduct, the statement must be viewed in light of the totality of the evidence presented at trial.” State v. Longshaw, 961 P.2d 925, 927 (Utah Ct.App.1998) (internal quotation marks omitted). “[B]ecause the trial court is in the best position to determine the impact of a st......
  • State v. Wright
    • United States
    • Utah Court of Appeals
    • June 20, 2013
    ...prosecutorial misconduct, the statement must be viewed in light of the totality of the evidence presented at trial.” State v. Longshaw, 961 P.2d 925, 927 (Utah Ct.App.1998) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). ¶ 40 We agree with the State that the first four sentences of the pro......
  • State v. Bradley
    • United States
    • Utah Court of Appeals
    • October 18, 2002
    ...not be justified in considering in determining its verdict.'" State v. Kohl, 2000 UT 35, ¶ 22, 999 P.2d 7 (quoting State v. Longshaw, 961 P.2d 925, 928 (Utah Ct.App.1998) (citations ¶ 43 Bradley contends the statement indicated to the jury that they were required to use J.B.'s testimony to ......
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1 books & journal articles
  • Utah Standards of Appellate Review – Revised [1]
    • United States
    • Utah State Bar Utah Bar Journal No. 12-8, October 1999
    • Invalid date
    ...(Utah 1999). (7) Whether a prosecutor's statements during closing arguments constituted prosecutorial misconduct. See State v. Longshaw, 961 P.2d 925, 927 (Utah Ct. App. 1998). (8) Whether the trial court should bar a witness's testimony because a party failed to comply with discovery oblig......

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