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State v. King

Supreme Court of Montana

May 28, 2013

STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
NATHAN GERALD KING, Defendant and Appellant.

Submitted on Briefs: April 10, 2013

APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Eighth Judicial District, In and For the County of Cascade, Cause No. DDC 10-505(b) Honorable Julie Macek, Presiding Judge.

For Appellant: Nancy G. Schwartz, NG Schwartz Law, PLLC; Billings, Montana

For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Jonathan Mark Krauss, Assistant Attorney General; Helena, Montana

John Parker, Cascade County Attorney, Susan Weber, Deputy County Attorney, Great Falls, Montana

OPINION

Michael E Wheat Justice

¶1 Nathan King (King) appeals from an order of the Eighth Judicial District Court, Cascade County, entered after a jury convicted him of one count of deliberate homicide and one count of aggravated assault. We affirm.

¶2 We address the following issues for review:

¶3 Issue One: D id the District Court err by excluding evidence of justifiable use of force as a defense to the charge of deliberate homicide?

¶4 Issue Two: D id the District Court err by excluding evidence of Terrey's prior mental health history, suicide attempts and cutting behavior, and did this exclusion violate King's Sixth Amendment right to compulsory process and confrontation and Fourteenth Amendment right to due process?[1]

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

¶5 In the afternoon of December 2, 2010, law enforcement was dispatched to a trailer park in Great Falls, Montana, regarding a report of disturbance possibly involving a homicide. Upon arrival at the trailer park, officers made contact with a young woman named Sara Thompson (Thompson). Thompson had blood on her face and immediately informed the officers that her roommate, Christopher Terrey (Terrey), was in her trailer and in need of medical assistance.

¶6 The officers entered Thompson's trailer, which was in complete disarray and had broken items strewn about. They quickly discovered Terrey, who was lying face down in a large pool of blood in the doorway of a bedroom. There was a broken blade of a knife underneath his body and a knife handle nearby. An officer determined Terrey was dead, and an autopsy later revealed the cause of death was blood loss as a result of a knife wound to his left carotid artery. There were several other scrapes and wounds on his body.

¶7 Meanwhile, law enforcement pursued a male suspect who was seen fleeing from the trailer when the officers first arrived. The suspect was unresponsive to the officers' commands and was eventually tased and transported to jail. The suspect was identified as King.

¶8 Police interviews and trial testimony revealed a more detailed picture of the events of December 2, 2010. Thompson lived in the trailer with her boyfriend, King, their five-year-old daughter, Zoe, and their friend and co-worker, Terrey. At the time of the incident, King was 26 years old, Thompson was 25 years old, and Terrey was 20 years old. King, Thompson, and Terrey were CNAs at Park Place Healthcare, and all three worked the night shift that began December 1, 2010, and ended the morning of December 2, 2010, at approximately 6:45 am. After returning home from work on the morning of December 2, Thompson went to her bedroom to sleep while King and Terrey stayed up to drink and play video games.

¶9 Over the next few hours, King and Terrey continued to drink, play video games, and wrestle with each other. At two different times, King and Terrey entered Thompson's bedroom. Terrey got into Thompson's bed and attempted to cuddle her; King told Thompson to "just go with it." Thompson testified the behavior was strange and made her feel very uncomfortable.

ΒΆ10 Thompson became increasingly irritated at King and Terrey and frustrated that she was not able to sleep. After King and Terrey entered her bedroom the second time, Thompson decided to drive to a friend's home. As Thompson was leaving her trailer, Terrey's mother, Bonita, and cousin, Lyle, arrived. Bonita and Lyle stayed for a short period of time, briefly talking with Terrey and King, and ...


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