State v. Schwartzmiller

Decision Date26 July 1984
Docket NumberNo. 14237,14237
Citation107 Idaho 89,685 P.2d 830
PartiesThe STATE of Idaho, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Dean Arthur SCHWARTZMILLER, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtIdaho Supreme Court

Debra Ann Heise, Caldwell, for defendant-appellant.

Jim Jones, Atty. Gen., Lynn E. Thomas, Sol. Gen., and Myrna A.I. Stahman, Deputy Atty. Gen., for plaintiff-respondent.

SHEPARD, Justice.

This is an appeal by Schwartzmiller from his convictions upon three counts of lewd and lascivious conduct with two fourteen year old boys and from the sentences imposed. We affirm.

The acts with which defendant was charged took place in late 1978 with two fourteen year old boys, hereinafter A and B. The defendant evidently frequented a parking lot at a junior high school and a restaurant near the school. While A and his family were at an auto racing meet, the defendant struck up an acquaintance with the family and offered A an opportunity to work on a race car. A was invited to the defendant's house, where they spent time having beer, using marijuana, and later having dinner. Later that evening, defendant took A to his bedroom and performed anal copulation upon A. Approximately one month later, the same sequence of events occurred involving A and the defendant.

B lived with his mother, who was separated from his father, and met the defendant at a pizza parlor during November 1978. Approximately one month later, both A and B, together with A's family, were at the defendant's home for dinner. B remained with the defendant after the others had left and was given five beers. Late in the evening, the defendant took B to a bedroom where he performed masturbation and fellatio upon B, and attempted anal intercourse upon B.

Schwartzmiller was charged with three counts of lewd and lascivious conduct upon a minor child under the age of sixteen years, pursuant to I.C. § 18-6607. Following trial, a verdict of guilty was returned on all three counts, and the defendant was sentenced to a fixed determinate term of ten years on count two; an indeterminate sentence of five years on count three, to run consecutively with the sentence on count two; and an indeterminate period of ten years on count one, to run consecutively with the sentence on count three.

Defendant Schwartzmiller first asserts that the trial court improperly limited the scope of cross-examination, in that under Davis v. Alaska, 415 U.S. 308, 94 S.Ct. 1105, 39 L.Ed.2d 347 (1974), it is reversible error to refuse to permit defense counsel to cross-examine the State's key witness about prior juvenile adjudications and probation status. Defendant argues that the constitutional right of confrontation outweighs the State's interests in keeping juvenile proceedings confidential. In Davis, the principal witness to a burglary was himself on probation for two burglaries committed while he was a juvenile. The Court there held that, while the juvenile's adjudication could not be used as a general impeachment of the witness's character as a truthful person, it could be used as "a more particular attack on the witness's credibility ... by means of cross-examination directed toward revealing possible biases, prejudices, or ulterior motives of the witness as they may relate directly to issues or personalities in the case at hand." Davis, supra, 415 U.S. at 316, 94 S.Ct. at 1110. However, as Stewart, J., stated in his concurrence, "I would emphasize that the court neither holds nor suggests that the constitution confers a right in every case to impeach the general credibility of a witness through cross-examination about his past delinquency adjudications or criminal convictions." Id. at 321, 94 S.Ct. at 1113. As stated in Chambers v. Mississippi, 410 U.S. 284, 93 S.Ct. 1038, 35 L.Ed.2d 297 (1973), "[T]he right to confront and to cross-examine is not absolute and may, in appropriate cases, bow to accommodate other legitimate interests in the criminal trial process." Id., 410 U.S. at 295, 93 S.Ct. at 1046. Federal Rule of Evidence 609(d) indicates that one of those legitimate interests is the confidentiality of juvenile adjudications. Rule 609(d) provides that juvenile adjudications are generally inadmissible but may be allowed if: (1) the adjudication would be admissible against an adult, and (2) the court is satisfied that admission in evidence is necessary for a fair determination of the issue of guilt or innocence. As stated in Chipman v. Mercer, 628 F.2d 528, 531 (9th Cir.1980):

"Davis v. Alaska and our own precedents do not require a trial court to permit the cross-examination on topics of very slight or marginal relevance simply upon the theory that bias or prejudice might be disclosed. Although it tips the scales in favor of permitting cross-examination, the confrontation clause does not prevent the trial court from weighing the offer of proof to determine its probative value to the trier of fact and its probable effect on fair and efficient conduct of the trial."

Chipman further states that, while "confrontation clause doctrine appears to require reversal if there is any error ..., [t]he seeming harshness of that rule is diminished, however, because the confrontation clause violation generally does not occur unless the denied area of cross-examination is one of considerable relevance." Id., 628 F.2d at 533.

In the instant case, the evidence of the witnesses' prior adjudications of burglaries had slight, if any, probative value. The defendant fails to show, and we are not persuaded, that those adjudications of burglaries provided any motive for the witnesses to perjure themselves in this lewd and lascivious conduct trial. We hold therefore that the exclusion of the evidence of the juvenile adjudications was not error. Hughes v. Raines, 641 F.2d 790 (9th Cir.1981); Owens v. State, 96 Nev. 880, 620 P.2d 1236 (1980).

Appellant next asserts that the trial court erred in excluding evidence that one of the boys had at a previous time falsely charged another person with having committed similar sex acts. We find no error in this regard. The only basis for that assertion of a false charge lies in the fact that another person was charged, tried, and found not guilty. A not guilty verdict, standing by itself, can never be taken to establish that the charges brought were based on false accusations, since one may not be convicted of a crime unless a jury finds beyond a reasonable doubt the guilt of the defendant. As stated in Little v. State, 413 N.E.2d 639, 643 (Ind.App.1980), "We believe that evidence of false accusations of similar sexual misconduct is admissible on the issue of the victim's credibility. The allegations, however, must be demonstrably false." See also Hughes v. Raines, supra. Appellant failed to demonstrate to the trial court or to this Court that the witness' previous allegations of sexual misconduct against another were false. The exclusion of that line of testimony was not error.

Although appellant argues that the counts against him were improperly joined, Idaho Criminal Rule 8(a) states that two or more offenses may be charged on the same complaint if the offenses are based on "two or more acts or transactions connected together or constituting parts of a common scheme or plan." Here the facts demonstrate a common plan, in that Schwartzmiller frequents areas where young boys may be found, befriends boys with no father figure in the home, entices them from their homes, lowers their natural inhibitions through the use of drugs and alcohol, and commits sex acts upon them. We find no error in the joining of the offenses.

Appellant next argues that the trial court improperly instructed the jury as to the testimony of the two witnesses corroborating each other. We find no error. We have held that "evidence of other crimes by the defendant is admissible when relevant to ... a common scheme or plan embracing the commission of two or more crimes so related to each other that proof of the one tends to establish the other, the identity of the person charged with the commission of the crime on trial, and other similar issues." State v. Wrenn, 99 Idaho 506, 584 P.2d 1231 (1978). Evidence of similar acts of sexual misconduct between a defendant and the victim or between the defendant and another witness is admissible for corroboration of the victim's testimony in sex crime cases. See State v. Elsen, 68 Idaho 50, 187 P.2d 976 (1947); State v. Hirsch, 64 Idaho 20, 127 P.2d 764 (1942); State v. Shelton, 46 Idaho 423, 267 P. 950 (1928).

Appellant next asserts that Idaho's lewd and lascivious conduct statute violates the eighth amendment proscription against cruel and unusual punishment, in that it allows for a maximum punishment of life imprisonment. We disagree. We first note that the appellant in this case did not receive the maximum penalty allowed under I.C. § 18-6607. Where the sentence is within statutory limits, the appellant has the burden of showing a clear abuse of discretion in the court's imposing the sentence. State v. Stroup, 101 Idaho 54, 607 P.2d 1328 (1980); State v. Wilson, 100 Idaho 725, 604 P.2d 739 (1979); State v. Dillon, 100 Idaho 723, 604 P.2d 737 (1979); State v. Wolfe, 99 Idaho 382, 582 P.2d 728 (1978); State v. Reese, 98 Idaho 347, 563 P.2d 405 (1977). In State v. Reese, supra, we upheld a fifteen year sentence for one count of lewd and lascivious conduct, where the trial judge found that Reese was potentially dangerous, particularly to young people. Rummel v. Estelle, 445 U.S. 263, 100 S.Ct. 1133, 63 L.Ed.2d 382 (1980), a leading eighth amendment case, held that the state has a valid interest in segregating those who demonstrate a criminal propensity, those who pose a danger to society, and those who have shown that incarceration does not deter their criminal conduct. In the instant case, the sentencing judge characterized Schwartzmiller as an intelligent individual who uses his intelligence to take advantage of the weak and oppressed and those who are in need. The...

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