State v. Weaver, 48470

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Idaho
Writing for the CourtMOELLER, JUSTICE
PartiesSTATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. RICKY EUGENE WEAVER, Defendant-Appellant.
Docket Number48470
Decision Date23 August 2022

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.

RICKY EUGENE WEAVER, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 48470

Supreme Court of Idaho, Boise

August 23, 2022


Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Elmore County. James S. Cawthon, District Judge.

The judgment of the district court is affirmed.

Eric Don Fredericksen, State Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for Appellant. Garth McCarty argued.

Lawrence G. Wasden, Idaho Attorney General, Boise, for Respondent. John McKinney argued.

MOELLER, JUSTICE

Ricky Eugene Weaver appeals his conviction for solicitation of murder. The State maintains that Weaver offered to pay a fellow inmate to murder his girlfriend while they were both being held in the Elmore County Detention Center. Weaver was subsequently charged and convicted by a jury. During his trial, Weaver attempted to elicit testimony from another prisoner, Michael Dean, that Wallace had told Dean that he made up the murder-for-hire story against Weaver in an attempt to try to get a "deal" from the prosecutor in his own case. The district court excluded the evidence on the grounds that Dean's testimony was hearsay and inherently unreliable based on Dean's own statements.

On appeal, Weaver asserts the district court erred by excluding Dean's testimony because the anticipated testimony: (1) was relevant because it tended to make it more probable that Wallace had not testified truthfully but instead had tried to set Weaver up in order to secure a "deal" from

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the prosecutor; (2) fit within the "state of mind" exception to the hearsay rule; (3) was proper impeachment of Wallace's credibility; and (4) had probative value not outweighed by the possibility of unfair prejudice. For the reasons explained below, we affirm the district court.

I. Facts and Background

Weaver was arrested in Elmore County on November 28, 2018, pursuant to an arrest warrant issued out of Owyhee County for domestic violence against his former girlfriend, M.K.[1]After the arrest, he was held in the Elmore County Detention Center for approximately 20 hours before being transported to the Owyhee County Jail. While in the Elmore County Detention Center, on November 29, 2018, the State maintains Weaver offered to pay another prisoner, Michael Wallace, to kill M.K. The State charged Weaver with solicitation of murder in violation of Idaho Code sections 18-2001 and 18-4001. A two-day jury trial commenced on March 5, 2020. The jury found Weaver guilty.

Weaver and M.K. have a daughter together. Weaver also has a daughter, A.W., from an earlier relationship with a woman who will be referred to only by her initials S.H. At trial, M.K. testified that Weaver "told me if he ever lost custody of A.W., he would have me killed." M.K. testified Weaver was worried that his domestic abuse charge against M.K. could give S.H. reason to take custody of A.W. from him. M.K. further testified that Weaver now blamed M.K. for jeopardizing his custody of A.W. since she was the one who reported him for the charge that led to his arrest.

The State's theory of the case is largely founded on Wallace's version of events. Weaver and Wallace were briefly held in the same pod at the Elmore County Detention Center in November 2018. Wallace testified that he heard Weaver "talking to another guy that was in the detention center, Carney, and Carney had made a reaction then, and that's when Carney had came [sic] up to me, and I was like [']What's so funny?['] And that's when he introduced me to Mr. Weaver because he had talked about --." Wallace was interrupted by a sustained hearsay objection. Wallace was next asked "did Mr. Weaver ask you to do anything inappropriate?" He responded: "Yes." When asked "And what did Mr. Weaver ask you to do?", he responded: "He had asked me to murder his -- I don't know if it's his wife or the mother of his child." Wallace later testified that Weaver then offered Wallace $2000, with $200 to be paid upfront, to murder M.K. Wallace testified that Weaver "said he wanted to make it look like - if I could possibly make it look like a

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car accident. And he did say that he didn't want the child hurt." Wallace also testified that Weaver had mentioned "a 1992 white Honda Accord" and that Weaver owned the car, but his girlfriend [M.K.] drove it. Wallace testified he had told Weaver that he had a brother in Chicago, implying that he could get the job done.

Wallace then told the jury that Weaver gave him instructions on how to find his girlfriend. Wallace testified that "first, initially [Weaver] had wrote [sic] some stuff down but he didn't want [it in] his handwriting, so that's when he had me write [the map] down in my handwriting with a pen and a piece of paper in his cell." Wallace testified that Weaver then flushed the paper on which Weaver had initially written down the toilet. The napkin with the map drawn by Wallace was admitted as evidence at trial. Wallace stated that within an hour of their conversation, he sent a "kite"[2] requesting to talk with one of the deputies because he had "information about a young lady whose life may be at harm." Wallace did not think the detectives took him seriously the first time since he did not immediately get a response, so he sent a second kite the next day, when Weaver was transferred to Owyhee County. Wallace testified that when he eventually talked with a detective, "I told him exactly what had happened and there was no deal involved. I just was concerned about this young lady." Wallace requested a deal "when the detectives asked me to do a written statement." Wallace was originally charged with burglary for breaking a car window, but the deal was that he would "get a misdemeanor and then go to court and get time served." Wallace did receive his "deal"; he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, rather than the felony. However, he later testified he believed he did not receive what he anticipated because he had spent more time in jail "than what the deal-what the deal-what the plea arrangement was." Detective Parlin testified, confirming that he spoke with Wallace regarding Weaver on November 29, 2018, and December 19, 2018.

In addition to Wallace's testimony, the State's theory of the case was supported by multiple other witnesses, including other Elmore County Detention Center inmates and an Owyhee County Jail inmate. John Myers, an inmate in the Elmore County Detention Center, was held in the same pod with Weaver. He testified to hearing Weaver threaten M.K. and told the jury that he heard Weaver and Wallace discussing "hiring someone to hit -- you know, off his wife or girlfriend." Myers further testified he saw both Wallace and Weaver writing on a napkin and that he did not overhear any discussion of a vehicle.

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James Carney was another inmate held in the same pod as Weaver in the Elmore County Detention Center. He testified that he and Weaver had a conversation in which Weaver "said that he was interested in finding somebody to put a hit on his girlfriend." Richard Cage, also called as a witness by the defense, testified that, while he was in Elmore County Detention Center, he overheard Weaver on the phone saying "something about a bitch." Cage did not know who Weaver was talking about, but he testified that he heard Weaver saying that he wished that person were dead. Willie Rabey, an inmate housed with Weaver in the Owyhee County Jail, testified that Weaver "was talking about when he was in Elmore County, he had talked to another inmate about murdering his ex."

Weaver's ex-wife, S.H., testified that on June 19, 2018, Weaver had called her. She recounted their conversation as follows: "[He] asked if I knew anybody who would crack [M.K]'s F'ing skull. I said, 'No.' He asked if I would do it. I absolutely said, 'No.' Offered to pay me. Offered to pay me two more times during this conversation to do so." Additionally, S.H.'s fiancé, D.G., corroborated S.H.'s testimony by testifying that he overheard this conversation between Weaver and S.H. because S.H. had put the phone call on speakerphone and asked him to listen to the call.

On March 4, 2020, the day before trial, the State filed a motion in limine and supporting memorandum to exclude the testimony of Michael Dean, a witness disclosed by the defense. The State argued that Dean's testimony should not be admitted because it was hearsay and because Dean had not been disclosed as a witness until just two days before trial, in violation of the district court's pretrial order. On March 5, after the trial commenced, the issue of whether to admit Dean's testimony was taken up by the district court outside the presence of the jury. The district court acknowledged the State's objection to Dean's testimony but deferred ruling, noting:

It's difficult for the Court to make any particular rulings on that at this time, inasmuch as I would anticipate that [the State's] witness will testify before [the defense's], some of what comes in that would qualify as impeachment or not impeachment. And all that would depend on the nature of your cross-examination of this individual.
And so it's difficult to make a ruling one way or the other at this time.

On March 6, after the State rested its case, the defense called Dean to testify. Because of the State's pending motion in...

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