State v. Sparks

Decision Date14 October 1983
Docket NumberNo. 18780,18780
Citation672 P.2d 92
PartiesThe STATE of Utah, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Robert D. SPARKS, Defendant and Appellant.
CourtUtah Supreme Court

Arden E. Coombs, Ogden, for defendant and appellant.

David L. Wilkinson, Atty. Gen., Earl F. Dorius, Asst. Atty. Gen., Salt Lake City, for plaintiff and respondent.

HOWE, Justice:

Defendant Robert D. Sparks appeals, seeking the reversal of a jury conviction of third degree felony theft in violation of U.C.A., 1953, § 76-6-404, or a new trial. He was found guilty of obtaining or exercising unauthorized control over an Angus bull owned by Basin Land and Livestock Company with the purpose of depriving the Company of it.

Raising four points on appeal, defendant first contends that the evidence was insufficient to support the verdict. This Court views the evidence, and reasonable inferences from it, in a light most favorable to the verdict, State v. Petree, Utah, 659 P.2d 443 (1983); State v. Kerekes, Utah, 622 P.2d 1161 (1980); and, we do not substitute our judgment for that of the factfinder. State v. Lamm, Utah, 606 P.2d 229 (1980). We reverse a conviction only where the evidence is so inconclusive or inherently improbable that all reasonable minds would entertain a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. State v. Petree, supra; State v. Romero, Utah, 554 P.2d 216 (1976).

Examining the evidence in support of the verdict, there was testimony by an employee of Basin Land and Livestock Company that he saw a person with shoulder-length brownish-blond hair, wearing a green coat and levis, running from the Company's corral toward a creek. At the corral the employee discovered a dead Angus bull, steam rising from its cut-open body. Minutes later the employee stopped a truck which was leaving the area and recognized the passenger, later identified as defendant, to be the person he had seen running from the corral. Even though the weather was cold, defendant wore only a short sleeved shirt. His levis were water-splashed. He pointed out his dry tennis shoes before the employee ever mentioned that he had seen a person running toward the creek.

Upon investigation, officers observed Western bootprints in the ground alongside and into the creek. A crime laboratory expert could not determine the caliber of the bullet that created fragments found in the bull. He testified that they did not come from one of two rifles the defendant had with him in the truck. He could not conclude what gun was used. The defendant claimed that he and the driver of the truck were in the area hunting albeit without licenses; and, the driver explained that they had been looking for a tree for his wife. In view of this evidence, we see no reason to substitute our judgment for the jury's. The evidence against defendant was not so inherently improbable that it would necessitate a reasonable doubt in the minds of reasonable persons as to his guilt.

Neither do we find an abuse of discretion in the denial of defendant's motion for a new trial which he made on the ground of newly discovered evidence since he apparently knew or could have discovered the evidence prior to trial. State v. Conrad, Utah, 590 P.2d 1264 (1979). A prison inmate who was already serving a substantial term and admitted he had "nothing to lose" confessed to the driver of the truck, months before trial, that he had committed the crime. Even though the confession may have been known to defendant, the trial judge granted a hearing on his motion for a new trial at which the inmate could not remember landmarks in the geographical area. He testified that he had spent forty-five minutes working on the bull, whereas evidence at trial indicated that the entrails had only begun to be removed when the employee discovered the dead bull. In view of the granting of the hearing and the testimony given there, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion for a new trial.

Defendant's second point, that evidence of certain photographs was improperly admitted at trial, is also without merit. Relying upon U.C.A., 1953, § 77-35-16 which requires in subsection (4) that the prosecutor disclose any evidence known to him that tends to negate the guilt...

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7 cases
  • State v. Webb
    • United States
    • Utah Court of Appeals
    • March 26, 1990
    ...punishment claim); State v. Chancellor, 704 P.2d 579, 580 (Utah 1985) (per curiam) (probable cause to stop vehicle); State v. Sparks, 672 P.2d 92, 94 (Utah 1983) (speedy trial right); State ex. rel. M.S., 781 P.2d 1289 (Utah Ct.App.1989) (constitutionality of statute). This principle of app......
  • State v. Lairby
    • United States
    • Utah Supreme Court
    • December 31, 1984
    ...has not asserted his or her right to a speedy trial in the lower court has waived the right to raise the issue on appeal. State v. Sparks, Utah, 672 P.2d 92, 94 (1983). Thus, in the present case defendants waived a speedy trial because they did not assert their rights below and because thei......
  • State v. Williams
    • United States
    • Utah Supreme Court
    • December 9, 1985 inherently improbable that it would necessitate a reasonable doubt in the minds of reasonable persons as to his guilt. State v. Sparks, Utah, 672 P.2d 92 (1983). The conviction is HALL, C.J., and STEWART, DURHAM and ZIMMERMAN, JJ., concur. ...
  • State v. Ossana, 20779
    • United States
    • Utah Supreme Court
    • June 17, 1987
    ...U.S. at 528, 92 S.Ct. at 2191 (footnote omitted). To the extent that State v. Lairby, 699 P.2d 1187, 1193 (Utah 1984), and State v. Sparks, 672 P.2d 92, 94 (Utah 1983), suggest otherwise, we disavow them.9 As the Court said in Barker: "We emphasize that failure to assert the right will make......
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