State v. Payne

Decision Date15 December 2008
Docket NumberNo. 28589.,No. 32389.,28589.,32389.
PartiesSTATE of Idaho, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Darrell Edward PAYNE, Defendant-Appellant. Darrell Edward Payne, Petitioner-Appellant-Cross Respondent, v. State of Idaho, Respondent-Cross Appellant.
CourtIdaho Supreme Court

Molly J. Huskey, State Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for appellant. Paula May Swensen, Deputy State Appellate Public Defender argued.

Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General, Boise, for respondent. Lanny Lamont Anderson, Deputy Attorney General argued.


BURDICK, Justice.

Darrell Payne appeals his conviction of first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping robbery, and rape, and his sentence of death for first-degree murder. He also appeals the summary dismissal of all but one of his claims for post-conviction relief. The State cross-appeals the district court's order setting aside Payne's death sentence on post-conviction relief. We affirm Payne's conviction, but vacate his sentence on post-conviction and remand to the district court for resentencing.


The district court sentenced Payne to death for the murder of Samantha Maher after a jury found him guilty of kidnapping, raping, robbing, and murdering Maher.

On July 6, 2000, Payne abducted Maher from Julia Davis Park in Boise. That morning, he left his home as if to go to work, even kissing his wife goodbye, but instead drove to the park. Payne had with him a loaded .22 Ruger and several recent purchases: handcuffs, latex gloves, detailed maps and atlases of Oregon, and camping gear. Payne approached Maher around 10:15 that morning as she was arriving for her class at Boise State University. Carrying the handgun, Payne forced Maher into the front seat of her car. He then handcuffed her wrists and drove her car to an unknown location. After sexually assaulting her, Payne raped Maher, leaving bruises, cuts and scrapes on her face, back, and buttocks. After the rape, Payne placed the handgun at the back of Maher's head and shot her. Payne then placed Maher's body in the back seat of her car and drove to his rented home, a former dairy farm, near Nampa. He disposed of her body by dumping it in a concrete drainage tank containing water and debris near one of the barns on the property. He went into his home, ate some left-over pizza, and left a note under a bed pillow for his wife. He took Maher's keys and purse containing her credit cards and drove to the Oregon coast and then on to Eugene, Oregon the next day.

When Maher did not return to work after her class, her father began searching for her. When the search for her or her car was unsuccessful, he reported her missing to the Ada County Sheriff's Office. Also on July 6, Payne's boss called Payne's wife, Teresa, to report that Payne was not at work. Teresa's mother then began searching for Payne. When Teresa returned home that evening, she noticed things were out of order and called the Canyon County Sheriff's Office; she was advised that she would have to wait to make the missing person's report.

The search for Maher continued until July 8, 2000. That morning, a Canyon County Sheriff's Deputy arrived at the Payne home to take a missing person's report from Teresa. While the deputy was taking the report, Payne called Teresa. Without Payne's knowledge, Teresa reported parts of their conversation to the deputy. Payne told his wife that he was at a Motel 6 in Eugene, Oregon and that he had overdosed on aspirin in order to kill himself. The deputy then contacted the Eugene police department and asked them to look for Maher and her car and to complete a welfare check on Payne at the motel.

Payne surrendered to the Eugene police after they made telephone contact with him; he crawled out of his room and an officer handcuffed him outside of his second-story motel room. Because the officers had knowledge that Payne had overdosed on aspirin, paramedics responded. After their initial assessment, Payne walked downstairs to the ambulance and was transported to Sacred Heart Hospital. While en route, Payne was advised of and acknowledged his Miranda rights.1 At Sacred Heart, Detective Matthew Herbert advised Payne of his Miranda rights again, and after Payne stated that he understood his rights, Herbert began questioning Payne. Payne told Herbert that Maher was no longer alive and that her body was in an open concrete tank behind the barn at his home. When questioned about the blood in the back of Maher's car, Payne told the officer that he must have hurt her; he had a gun and must have shot her. He also explained that he took an overdose of aspirin because he felt badly about what happened to Maher and wanted to "save everybody the hassle." After being released from the hospital, Payne was taken to a holding cell.

Initially, an officer visually searched the motel room, looking for Maher, and saw the handgun and several sheets of paper on the bed; he also found a set of keys. Later, after obtaining a search warrant, the Eugene police searched the room again. They found two letters written by Payne: a "black letter" addressed to Teresa and a "red letter." In both letters, Payne referenced killing Maher; in the "red letter" he referred to committing three other rapes. The search of the motel also turned up the keys to Maher's car; a subsequent search of the vehicle revealed a large amount of blood in the back seat, Maher's credit cards and notebook, .22 caliber bullets, handcuffs, hair dye, latex gloves, men's underwear, men's pants in Payne's size, an atlas, hydrogen peroxide and a sponge, and numerous other items.

Back in Idaho, police officers located Payne's car in Julia Davis Park. They obtained a search warrant and found a leather holster, a box for a set of handcuffs, and other items during the search of the car. Officers also visited the Payne residence. Teresa showed them the location of the tank. Inside, Maher was floating face down with a plastic bag over her head. Her pants and underwear were on in an appropriate fashion, but her shirt and bra were pulled above her breasts.

Payne was charged with premeditated first-degree murder, or alternatively felony-murder, first-degree kidnapping, robbery, and rape. Payne filed numerous pre-trial motions, including a motion to suppress, which was denied. Payne also filed a notice to rely on mental health evidence. Two expert witnesses for the State then examined Payne. His trial commenced on September 17, 2001; Payne did not present any witnesses, instead arguing that the State had failed to meet its burden. A jury found Payne guilty of first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, rape, and robbery; the jury returned a special verdict form.

The district court proceeded to sentence Payne pursuant to Idaho's former death penalty statute, I.C. § 19-2515 (2001). The court held a three-day sentencing hearing, consisting of a full day of victim impact statements and two days of testimony. The district court issued its findings as to mitigating and aggravating factors and sentenced Payne to death for the murder of Maher.

Payne then filed for post-conviction relief and amended his petition twice. Payne filed his initial petition for post-conviction relief on July 10, 2002, filed an amended petition on January 13, 2004, and filed his second amended petition on March 26, 2004. After oral argument on this petition, the district court granted the State's motion for summary dismissal of Payne's claims as to all issues except his sentence. The district court granted Payne's petition as to his sentence, concluding that Payne's death sentence violated Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584, 122 S.Ct. 2428, 153 L.Ed.2d 556 (2002). Payne filed a timely notice of appeal, and the State cross-appealed. Payne's direct appeal and his appeal of the dismissal of his post-conviction petition were consolidated.


This Court's standard of review in death penalty cases is dictated by I.C. § 19-2827. State v. Fain, 119 Idaho 670, 671, 809 P.2d 1149, 1150 (1991). Idaho Code § 19-2827 provides, in part:

(b) The Supreme Court of Idaho shall consider the punishment as well as any errors enumerated by way of appeal.

(c) With regard to the sentence the court shall determine:

(1) Whether the sentence of death was imposed under the influence of passion, prejudice, or any other arbitrary factor; and

(2) Whether the evidence supports the jury's or judge's finding of a statutory aggravating circumstance from among those enumerated in section 19-2515, Idaho Code.

(d) Both the defendant and the state shall have the right to submit briefs within the time provided by the court, and to present oral argument to the court.

(e) In addition to its authority regarding correction of errors, the court, with regard to review of death sentences, shall be authorized to:

(1) Affirm the sentence of death; or

(2) Set the sentence aside and remand the case for resentencing by a jury or, if waived, the trial judge.

(f) The sentence review shall be in addition to direct appeal, if taken, and the review and appeal shall be consolidated for consideration.

I.C. § 19-2827(b)-(f).


Payne raises numerous issues in his brief, asserting errors during both the guilt and sentencing phases of his trial and asserting claims for post-conviction relief. Additionally, the State cross-appeals the district court's order setting aside Payne's death sentence. We will first address Payne's claims as to the guilt phase of his trial. We will then turn to the arguments presented regarding the sentencing phase and the State's cross-appeal.

A. Guilt phase

We begin by addressing error at the trial level. Payne first asserts that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress. Additionally, he asserts that the district court...

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