State v. Shult

Decision Date25 October 1985
Docket NumberNo. 14887,14887
Citation380 N.W.2d 352
PartiesSTATE of South Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee, v. Richard SHULT, Defendant and Appellant. . Considered on Briefs
CourtSouth Dakota Supreme Court

Grant E. Gormley, Asst. Atty. Gen., Pierre, for plaintiff and appellee; Mark V. Meierhenry, Atty. Gen., Pierre, on brief.

Paul Riley, Aberdeen, for defendant and appellant.

WUEST, Acting Justice.

This is an appeal from a judgment of conviction for second-degree burglary, pursuant to SDCL 22-32-3. We affirm.

On July 7, 1984, Richard Shult (appellant) and his girl friend, Brenda Lewis (Brenda), entered the Super America store in Redfield, South Dakota. While Brenda remained at the front of the store, appellant went to the back where the frozen food is located. Jay Dring (Dring), the store employee on duty at the time, testified that he went to the back of the store to lock the security door. As he walked past an aisle, Dring noticed appellant standing by a freezer wrapping something in a pair of sweatpants he was carrying. After locking the door, Dring approached appellant and asked to see what was in the sweatpants. Initially, appellant said that it was an icepack he was applying to an injury, but then he unfolded the garment revealing a frozen pizza, stating, "I was just getting food for me and her to eat." There was no discussion of payment for the pizza at this time, and Dring told appellant to remain in the store while he called the police.

Redfield Police Officers Greg Hagan (Hagan) and Leslie Helm (Helm) arrived at the store. Hagan entered while Helm remained in the patrol car. Officer Hagan testified that appellant met him at the store's entrance, stating, "I'm the one you're looking for." After discussing the incident with Dring, Hagan took appellant to the patrol car where he met Officer Helm, who testified that appellant again stated, "I'm the one you're looking for," and that he had taken the pizza. Appellant was then taken to the police station where he was arrested for shoplifting and read the Miranda warnings by Officer Hagan. He was interviewed by Helm, and stated that he had wrapped the pizza in the sweatpants, and had intended to take the pizza before he entered the store. His statement was then transcribed. He read the statement, made an addition thereto, and signed the statement.

Appellant was subsequently charged by the Spink County State's Attorney with second-degree burglary, pursuant to SDCL 22-32-3, which states:

Any person who enters or remains in an occupied structure with intent to commit any crime therein under circumstances not amounting to first degree burglary, is guilty of second degree burglary. Second degree burglary is a Class 3 felony.

He was tried before a jury and convicted of the offense as charged. The trial court sentenced appellant to one year in the South Dakota State Penitentiary, and he appeals.

Prior to trial, the circuit court held that the written statement transcribed on July 7, 1984, which summarized the question and answer session between Officer Helm and appellant, was read and signed by appellant "voluntarily and without any threats, promises or inducements whatsoever." Accordingly, the trial court ruled that the written statement was admissible at trial. Appellant's first contention on appeal is that the trial court erred in this determination and that the statement was not knowingly and voluntarily made, because appellant was in pain from recent surgery and "under the influence of numerous prescription drugs at the time of the interview."

This court has held repeatedly, that when examining the issue of the voluntariness of a confession or admission, the trial court's finding of voluntariness will not be overturned unless it is clearly erroneous. State v. Hintz, 318 N.W.2d 915 (S.D.1982); State v. Lyons, 269 N.W.2d 124 (S.D.1978); State v. Lewis, 90 S.D. 615, 244 N.W.2d 307 (1976); State v. Aschmeller, 87 S.D. 367, 209 N.W.2d 369 (1973). "Moreover, we consider the evidence in a light most favorable to support the trial court's denial of appellant's suppression motion." Hintz, 318 N.W.2d at 916. See also State v. Bult, 351 N.W.2d 731 (S.D.1984); State v. Kiehn, 86 S.D. 549, 199 N.W.2d 594 (1972).

Whether appellant waived his constitutional rights must be answered using the totality of the circumstances approach. That is, considering appellant's age, experience, education, background, and intelligence, did he understand the Miranda warnings and the nature of his constitutional rights and did he knowingly and intelligently forego his right to remain silent and to have the assistance of counsel?

Bult, 351 N.W.2d at 735 (emphasis in original) (citations omitted). See also State v. West, 344 N.W.2d 502 (S.D.1984); State v. Caffrey, 332 N.W.2d 269 (S.D.1983).

The evidence supporting the trial court's conclusion as to voluntariness and waiver is as follows: Appellant is twenty-three years of age and has a prior felony conviction. At the suppression hearing, the officers involved stated that he had given them similar statements on five or six occasions. When the officers arrived at the scene, appellant approached them and stated "I'm the one you're looking for." He was read the Miranda warnings prior to questioning and stated that he understood and waived them. Appellant read the written statement, and before signing it, he was allowed to make an addition. The officers testified that he did not act unusual or tell them that he was in pain when questioned. Moreover, he was given no promises in return for his statement, nor was he coerced, threatened or intimidated into making the statement. Against this evidence is appellant's claim that he was in pain and under the influence of drugs.

We conclude that the trial court's admission of the written statement was not clearly erroneous, and the evidence produced at the suppression hearing was sufficient to support the trial court's ruling therein. As to this, we must defer to the trial judge's ability to observe the witnesses during their testimony and to determine their credibility.

Prior to trial, the state's attorney requested that the trial court rule on whether the prosecution would be allowed to use appellant's prior felony bad check conviction to impeach his testimony in the event appellant took the stand. After argument, the trial court weighed the probative value of the evidence against its prejudicial effect, in accordance with SDCL 19-14-12, and admitted the prior conviction, stating:

The court does find that the previous conviction is fairly recent. The conviction was less than three years from the date of the offense, that it was for a felony. The felony involved dishonesty. That it would therefore be considered in the defendant's truthfulness when he testifies. That intent will be one of the issues in the case and therefore, the Court would determine that the probative value of admitting the evidence would outweigh the prejudicial effect to the defendant, realizing that most any evidence may be considered prejudicial and, of course, that's admissible only if the defendant testifies.

Appellant testified at trial, and as allowed by the trial court's ruling, his prior felony bad check conviction was used to impeach his credibility as a witness. He argues on appeal that the trial court's ruling therein constituted reversible error.

SDCL 19-14-12 provides:

For the purpose of attacking the credibility of a witness, evidence that he has been convicted of a crime shall be admitted but only if the court determines that the probative value of admitting this evidence outweighs its prejudicial effect to a party or the accused and the crime

(1) was punishable by death or imprisonment in excess of one year under the law under which he was convicted, or

(2) involved dishonesty or false statement, regardless of the punishment.

Rulings made under SDCL 19-14-12 are discretionary and the standard of review on appeal is that an abuse of discretion is required for reversible error. State v. King, 346 N.W.2d 750 (S.D.1984); State v. Dickson, 329 N.W.2d 630 (S.D.1983); State v. Cochrun, 328 N.W.2d 271 (S.D.1983); State v. Sahlie, 90 S.D. 682, 245 N.W.2d 476 (1976).

"This Court has cautioned trial courts 'to make a definite finding that the evidence is more probative than prejudicial before allowing prior convictions into evidence.' " King, 346 N.W.2d at 751 (citing Cochrun, supra; State v. Quinn, 286 N.W.2d 320 (S.D.1979)). The excerpt cited herein from the trial court's ruling on the instant issue shows that, as per our holding in State v. Ford, 328 N.W.2d 263 (S.D.1982), the trial court balanced the probative value of the prior conviction against its prejudicial effect, and made a finding that the probative value of admitting the evidence outweighed the prejudice. Furthermore, the trial court gave the jury the following cautionary instruction:

A defendant's prior conviction of a crime is admitted into evidence solely for your consideration in evaluating the credibility of the defendant as a witness. It is not evidence of the defendant's guilt of the offense with which he is charged. You must not draw any inference of guilt against the defendant from such prior conviction. You may consider it only in connection with your evaluation of the credence to be given his present testimony in court.

Because the record shows that the trial court applied the balancing test and made a finding that the probative value outweighed the prejudice, and a cautionary instruction was given, we affirm the trial court's admission of appellant's prior felony bad check conviction.

In closing argument, the state's attorney made reference to appellant's contention that he was under the influence of prescription drugs during and after the offense. The prosecution stated: "The only evidence is [appellant's] statement that he had some red pills. He brought no evidence forward to support his claim and his lawyer's...

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  • State v. Iron Necklace
    • United States
    • South Dakota Supreme Court
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    ..."Counsel is allowed considerable latitude in argument and has the right to comment on matters supported by the evidence." State v. Shult, 380 N.W.2d 352, 355 (S.D.1986); State v. Standing Soldier, 299 N.W.2d 568 (S.D.1980). Judging from the briefs, although the objection noted above is less......
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    • March 22, 1988 such a jurisdiction has "remaining in" language, it has been rendered meaningless by judicial interpretation. E.g., State v. Shult, 380 N.W. 352 (S.D.1986) (despite its "remaining in" language, statute construed as converting entry with unlawful intent into a burglary); United States v. ......
  • State v. Janklow
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    ...for a new trial based on misconduct of counsel unless we are convinced there has been a clear abuse of discretion." State v. Shult, 380 N.W.2d 352, 355 (S.D.1986) (citations omitted). Janklow has not shown a clear abuse of discretion by the trial [¶ 48.] In addition to the two occurrences o......
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