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State v. Madplume

Supreme Court of Montana

February 28, 2017

STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
MELVIN LEE MADPLUME, JR., Defendant and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: January 25, 2017

         APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Twentieth Judicial District, In and For the County of Lake, Cause No. DC 13-143 Honorable John W. Larson, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant: Chad Wright, Chief Appellate Defender, Helena, Montana

          For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Katie F. Schulz, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana Steven N. Eschenbacher, Lake County Attorney, Polson, Montana

          OPINION

          DIRK M. SANDEFUR, JUSTICE

         ¶1 Following a jury trial in the Twentieth Judicial District Court, Lake County, Melvin Lee Madplume Jr. was convicted of deliberate homicide under the felony murder rule, § 45-5-102(1)(b), MCA, and sentenced to life without parole. Madplume timely appealed, arguing the District Court erred in admitting evidence of prior acts barred by M. R. Evid. 404(b). Madplume also claims the District Court sentenced him to pay costs of defense, prosecution, and jury selection without sufficient findings regarding his ability to pay. We affirm the District Court's evidentiary ruling, reverse the sentence to pay costs, and remand for an inquiry into Madplume's ability to pay.

         ISSUES

         ¶2 Madplume raises two issues on direct appeal:

1. Did the District Court abuse its discretion in admitting evidence of Madplume's prior acts under M. R. Evid. 404(b) and 403?
2. Did the District Court err in sentencing Madplume to pay costs of assigned defense, prosecution, and jury selection without a sufficient inquiry into his ability to pay?

         BACKGROUND

         ¶3 Madplume's conviction stems from the May 25, 2013 death of his 28-year-old cousin, Laurence Kenmille, at Wild Horse Hot Springs in Hot Springs, Montana. In its initial charging documents, the State recited the details of a prior, uncharged incident involving Madplume and another male cousin at Wild Horse. Madplume filed a motion in limine to exclude from trial all evidence of the prior event. The District Court denied Madplume's motion and admitted the evidence as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, and plan. Because the District Court based its decision on a comparison of the circumstances of Kenmille's death and the prior incident, a brief explanation of each event is required.

         A. Prior Incident

         ¶4 A week before Kenmille's death, Madplume and Bassu Eneas (Bassu) went to J.B.'s house to ask if he would drive them to Wild Horse. Like Kenmille, J.B. and Bassu were both cousins of Madplume. At the time, Madplume and J.B. were 29 and 40 years old, respectively, but Bassu was still a teenager. Madplume explained that he and Bassu had been drinking and needed a sober driver to take them to the hot springs. J.B. agreed to go with them in Madplume's car, but Madplume ended up driving. At Madplume's insistence, J.B. consumed two shots of whisky and began drinking a beer on the way to Wild Horse. When they arrived at Wild Horse, J.B. noticed that no one was working at the front desk, which made him uncomfortable about going inside. Madplume insisted he had reserved a room and led J.B. and Bassu to Room Four.

         ¶5 Room Four featured a private "plunge room" and sauna. The plunge room housed a sunken, cement hot tub filled with water piped in from the hot springs. The tub was situated against two walls in a corner of the room. A high metal railing wrapped around the tub's two open sides and down seven concrete steps into the tub. Because of the railing, the steps were the only way in and out of the tub. A short ledge along one wall provided the only seating available in the tub. In the corner of the plunge room opposite the tub, a metal door with a glass window led to a small sauna.

         ¶6 At first, J.B. was reluctant to get into the tub with Madplume and Bassu. A recent surgery on his foot left him self-conscious and leery of getting an infection from the water. Madplume, however, claimed to have a background in healthcare from working as a CNA, and assured J.B. that the hot water would be good for his foot. When J.B. finally joined Madplume and Bassu in the tub, Madplume began pestering J.B., asking to see his foot up close. When J.B. relented, Madplume touched J.B.'s inner thigh, which J.B. interpreted as a sexual advance and resisted, pushing Madplume away. Madplume then told Bassu to leave the room. Once Bassu was gone, Madplume accused J.B. of leading him on. J.B. got angry and tried to leave, but the combination of heat, alcohol, and the foot surgery made him unsteady. Madplume blocked the steps out of the hot tub and pushed J.B. back into the water multiple times. Eventually, J.B. pushed past Madplume, put on his shoes, and left the room.

         ¶7 J.B. found Bassu outside and told him what had happened, warning him against being alone with Madplume. Without cell service or other options to leave Wild Horse, J.B. and Bassu had to rely on Madplume to get home. When Madplume offered to drive them home, they accepted. The ride home began with Madplume speeding toward the highway, drifting from side to side across the dirt road leading away from Wild Horse. Upon reaching the highway, instead of turning left toward J.B.'s home, Madplume turned right toward Hot Springs. After Madplume sped past a cutoff road to Ronan, J.B. started getting mad again and demanded that Madplume pull over. When Madplume stopped, J.B. got out and began walking toward a local convenience store. About 20 minutes later, Madplume returned and encouraged J.B. to get back in the car. J.B. climbed in, and after more erratic driving, Madplume eventually took J.B. back to his home.

         B. Kenmille's Death

         ¶8 Madplume had purchased two bottles of rum before heading to Kenmille's mother's house for a late breakfast on May 25, 2013. At the time, Kenmille was staying at his mother's house. After visiting with friends and family in the neighborhood, Madplume, Kenmille and Youstah Eneas, Bassu's 16-year-old brother, went to Wild Horse. According to Wild Horse employees, the three men arrived around 3 p.m. and had already begun partying and drinking the rum Madplume had brought. The employees noted that Kenmille was particularly boisterous at first, but as the day went on he became more inebriated and subdued. Later in ...


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