State v Met

Met appealed his aggravated murder and child kidnapping convictions. The Court, with one justice concurring in part and in judgment, affirmed the convictions, but, remanded the life sentence in the murder case for clarification. The majority rejected Met’s constitutional challenges to Utah Code 76-3-207.7 which authorizes the district court to sentence convicted defendants to life with or without parole without the procedural protections afforded defendants facing the death penalty holding the challenges based on uniform operations of laws, eighth Amendment and right to jury trial fail on stare decisis grounds; the challenges based on Utah constitutional provisions baring cruel and unusual punishment and conferring a jury trial right failed due to inadequate briefing; that the due process challenges fail as 207.7, when read in context of the criminal code as a whole, dies not delegate legislative authority to judges and sets up an individualized sentencing based on the totality of the circumstances; and there is no equal protection violation here as the death sentence is different than life without parole. It held that review was unavailable for Met’s claim that the district court erred in ruling that his unconstitutionally obtained statement to the police could be  used as impeachment evidence if Met testified because Met neither testified nor made any attempt to create a reviewable record through proffer, affidavits or other means and further adopted a rule that to challenge a district court ruling that statements were obtained in violation of the Fifth Amendment must testify or make a reviewable record.  The majority affirmed the denial of Met’s motion to suppress as one of his roommates consented to the search of the main basement area where met lived, the roommates stored personal items in the basement and had the right to come and go as wanted and exigent circumstances existed justifying searching the bathroom as there was a missing 7-year-old girl who visited the apartment from time to time and the agents who searched the main area saw blood in the carpet and wails. It affirmed the admission of two photos of the victim by first abandoning all case law factors for gruesome photos as inconsistent with the plain language of Rule of Evidence 403 and second held there was no basis to reverse as the photos were relevant to the charges and the finding that here was no unfair prejudice given the finding that the photos were not so graphic as to trigger anger that would deprive the jury of its ability to fairly judge the case. It affirmed the decision to merge the convictions as the kidnapping was more than incidental to the murder as Met assaulted and dragged the victim down stairs and into the bathroom, the kidnapping not inherent in the murder as Met sexually assaulted the victim and inflicted several nonfatal injuries and was independently significant as moving the victim helped conceal the crime for the roommates. It rejected Met’s ineffective assistance claim rising from a withdrawn motion for mistrial as the allegedly exculpatory evidence was far from the scene and Met had a relationship with the victim, her body was found in his bathroom, her blood was found on his clothes when arrested, Met’s dna may have been found under victim’s fingernails and Met had injuries consistent with being scratched by fingernails all of which makes it highly unlikely the outcome of the trial would have been different. It finally vacated and remanded the murder sentence because the district judge erroneously declared life without parole to be the presumed sentence and case law directs the correct procedure to be remand to determine if the error affected the sentence and, if so, hold a new sentencing. The concurrence in part and in judgment argued merger was properly rejected because Utah courts have no common aw authority to create a merger doctrine as Utah criminal law is statue based and there is merger statute Utah Code 76-1-402 and there is no double jeopardy basis for a common law rule as kidnapping and murder each require proof of an element not found in the other crime. It also argued the incidental to, inherent in and intendant significance test is problematic as incidental is a subjective concept, inherent makes no sense as murder does not require confinement nor does rape if done to an unconscious victim and the independent significance factor does not help as kidnapping will always make commission of rape of or murder easier.