State v. Peters

Citation780 P.2d 602,116 Idaho 851
Decision Date02 October 1989
Docket NumberNo. 17467,17467
PartiesSTATE of Idaho, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Sally Jo PETERS, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtCourt of Appeals of Idaho

Randall D. Schulthies, Pocatello, for defendant-appellant.

Jim Jones, Atty. Gen., Jack B. Haycock, Deputy Atty. Gen., Boise, for plaintiff-respondent. Mr. Haycock argued.


Sally Peters was convicted of felony injury to her eight-year-old daughter. I.C. § 18-1501(1). Peters received a unified sentence not to exceed ten years including a minimum two years of incarceration before parole eligibility. Peters appeals, contending: (1) the district court abused its discretion by denying Peters' motion for continuance; (2) the district court erred by admitting photographs into evidence at trial; (3) the injury to children statute is unconstitutionally vague; (4) the district court erred by not allowing Peters' appointed counsel to interview the victim prior to trial; and (5) the sentence imposed was excessive. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment of the district court including the sentence.

Sally Peters and her eight-year-old daughter shared a house in Pocatello with Peters' boyfriend, Robert Tilton. In efforts to discipline the victim for wetting her pants and defecating in her bedroom, Tilton would punish her by spanking, banishment to a corner of a room, or other means.

On October 15, 1987 in particular, the victim was beaten by Tilton with his belt while she was lying over a bedroom chair without wearing pants or underpants. Peters was in another room and came into the bedroom during the beating. A neighbor across the street heard the victim screaming, "Daddy don't spank me," then three loud "smacks." The neighbor called the local office of the Department of Health and Welfare to report the incident. The Department notified Chubbuck Police Detective Jerry Rowland who responded to the call and discovered numerous bruises on the victim's body. Rowland left and returned later with a Health and Welfare social worker. The social worker examined the victim and took her to the hospital. Peters told the social worker that the victim had been whipped by Tilton with his belt and that she, Peters, had been in the house during the beating. Peters stated that she did not intervene because she did not believe the victim was being hurt by Tilton. Dr. Hardin, the examining physician, testified that on October 15 he observed some superficial lacerations and many varied bruises on the victim's body. Some bruises were fresh, some were at least five days old. The victim's buttocks region was virtually covered with bruises. The doctor testified that the force used to produce the bruising could have broken bones or caused internal injuries.


Shortly before the commencement of Peters' trial, Peters moved for a continuance due to personal medical problems. She testified concerning her ailments but she did not produce any testimony or statement of a doctor to support her request at the hearing. The district court denied the motion but offered to reconsider if Peters submitted a report or testimony from her physician supporting her stated condition. The district court further determined that Peters was lucid and able to understand the proceedings and effectively assist in her defense. Peters offered no further proof of her ailments although the record shows that she was scheduled to be examined by a doctor the day following the hearing. No prejudice has been shown to have resulted from denial of the continuance. Peters nevertheless contends that denial of her motion for a continuance was an abuse of the district court's discretion. The granting of a motion for continuance is in the sound discretion of the trial court and will not be disturbed unless there is a clear abuse of that discretion. State v. Hansen, 108 Idaho 902, 702 P.2d 1362 (Ct.App.1985). We hold there was no abuse of discretion.


At trial the state offered 8 X 10 photographs of the victim showing the injuries that were on various parts of the victim's body on October 15. The state had used 3 X 5 photos during the preliminary hearing. Peters argued that the smaller photos were adequate; that the larger photos were inflammatory and were being offered for that reason.

Photographs showing the appearance of a person are generally admissible at the discretion of the trial court. However, photographs are inadmissible if they are so inflammatory that their probative value is outweighed by the prejudice that may result from their admission. State v. Carter, 103 Idaho 917, 655 P.2d 434, new trial granted, 108 Idaho 788, 702 P.2d 826 (1981); I.R.E. 403. See also State v. Beason, 95 Idaho 267, 277-79, 506 P.2d 1340, 1350-53 (1973) (pictures of homicide victim and subsequent autopsy properly admitted into evidence).

The judge examined both sets of photos. He listened to testimony of the doctor who would be using the photos to explain the nature of the injuries to the jury. The judge weighed the prejudicial impact of the larger photos against the doctor's stated need of showing greater detail of the injuries to the jury through use of the larger photos. The judge decided that the probative value outweighed any prejudice resulting from their admission. He admitted the photos and then he admonished the jury as follows:

THE COURT: Ladies and gentlemen, I might advise you that the pictures that you're going to see here in a few minutes are photographs taken by Officer Rowland of [the victim] on the date that he testified. And I also want to advise you that in a case of this nature, ... you're going to be seeing some pictures of [the victim] that are not perhaps too pleasant to you, and I want you to be kind of aware of this. But, please in looking at the pictures and in listening to the doctor's testimony, keep in mind that you must make a decision based on all the evidence and don't allow just the pictures to inflame you to such an extent that you don't consider all the evidence in this case, okay?

We think it is clear from the record that the judge did not err in admitting the larger photos. We commend the judge for the precaution of admonishing the jury to keep this evidence in proper perspective.

Peters also argues that the photographs were irrelevant because she admitted that the victim had been spanked and badly bruised by Tilton. However, in this case, in proving the elements of felony injury to a child, the state was required to show that the parent wilfully permitted the child to suffer under circumstances "likely to produce great bodily harm." I.C. § 18-1501(1); State v. Valdez-Abrejo, 108 Idaho 79, 81, 696 P.2d 930, 932 (Ct.App.1985). Therefore, the 8 X 10 photographs were relevant and admissible not only to show how the injuries were inflicted but also to show that Peters could not help but be aware that serious injuries were being inflicted by Tilton's attempts to discipline her daughter. We find no merit in the argument that the photos were irrelevant.


Next, Peters argues that the felony injury to children statute, I.C. § 18-1501(1), is unconstitutionally vague. Peters contends that she was not aware of the extent of the victim's bruises until Peters saw them after the victim was hospitalized. Peters declares that I.C. § 18-1501(1) does not specify to what extent a parent should be aware of her (or his) child's physical condition. I.C. § 18-1501(1) reads as follows:

Injury to children. (1) Any person who, under circumstances or conditions likely to produce great bodily harm or death, willfully causes or permits any child to suffer, or inflicts thereon unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or having the care or custody of any child, willfully causes or permits the person or health of such child to be injured, or willfully causes or permits such child to be placed in such situation that its person or health is endangered, is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one (1) year, or in the state prison for not less than one (1) year nor more than ten (10) years.

The offense set forth in the statute first requires proof that the victim be a child. Here, the victim was Peters' eight-year-old daughter, clearly a child protected under the statute. Second, the accused must have permitted that child to be placed in a situation where its person or health is endangered.

Now, the question arises, when, under the law, must a parent protect her...

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11 cases
  • State v. Miranda
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • June 30, 1998
    ...harm will be "deemed to be the cause of those injuries" and the person bearing the duty may face criminal sanctions. State v. Peters, 116 Idaho 851, 855, 780 P.2d 602 (1989). Although our research has revealed no case by this court in which we expressly have held a parent criminally liable ......
  • United States v. Scott
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • March 2, 2021 rule on other grounds as recognized in State v. Brown , 464 Md. 237, 211 A.3d 335, 350 (2019) ; State v. Peters , 116 Idaho 851, 780 P.2d 602, 603, 605-06 (Ct. App. 1989) (explaining that parents may be guilty of "criminal homicide" for failing to provide adequate care for their children......
  • State v. Miranda
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • August 2, 2005
    ...dissent in the present case also relies in part, were dependent on statutes that are not analogous to § 53a-59. In State v. Peters, 116 Idaho 851, 854, 780 P.2d 602 (1989), the defendant was convicted under Idaho Code § 18-1501 (1), which is not similar to § 53a-59, but more closely resembl......
  • Sweaney v. Ada County, Idaho
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit
    • July 15, 1997
    ...Finally, Sweaney cites the Idaho Court of Appeals decision in State v. Peters, 116 Idaho 851, 780 P.2d 602 (Ct.App.1989), Idaho Code § 18-1501(2), and numerous cases from other states in an attempt to demonstrate that a parent's right to use reasonable corporal punishment is widely accepted......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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