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State v. Stutzman

Supreme Court of Montana

July 6, 2017

STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
MICHAEL ROBERT STUTZMAN, Defendant and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: March 8, 2017

         APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Thirteenth Judicial District, In and For the County of Yellowstone, Cause No. DC 13-807 Honorable Gregory R. Todd, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant: Chad Wright, Chief Appellant Defender, Haley Connell Jackson, Assistant Appellate Defender, Helena, Montana

          For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Tammy K Plubell, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana Scott Twito, Yellowstone County Attorney, Christopher Morris, Mary Leffers Barry, Deputy County Attorneys, Billings, Montana

          OPINION

          Beth Baker Justice

         ¶1 Michael Stutzman appeals his conviction of sexual assault against R.W., the eight- year-old daughter of Stutzman's former girlfriend, Angela. The jury acquitted Stutzman of a separate charge against K.W., R.W.'s twin sister. The court later denied Stutzman's motion for a new trial and sentenced him to prison.

         ¶2 We address the following issues on appeal:

1. Whether the prosecutor violated Stutzman's right to a fair trial by telling the jury in closing argument that, in order to find Stutzman not guilty, it would have to conclude that R.W. and K.W. had lied during their testimony;
2. Whether the District Court committed plain error when it failed to give a specific unanimity instruction to the jury on the sexual assault charge after R.W. testified to two alleged sexual assaults; and
3. Whether the District Court erred in not disclosing to the defense information from the medical and counseling records that it reviewed in camera.

         ¶3 We affirm.

         PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         ¶4 Stutzman began living with Angela, R.W., and K.W. in May 2013. Shortly after he moved in with them, R.W. and K.W. both disclosed to their mother and their school counselor, Tara Sylvester, that Stutzman had inappropriately touched them. The police arrested Stutzman, and the State charged him with felony sexual assault against R.W. and felony sexual intercourse without consent against K.W.

         ¶5 R.W. testified at trial that Stutzman had touched her inappropriately on two occasions. The first incident occurred while R.W. was sitting on Stutzman's lap at home. She stated that Stutzman touched her "in the wrong places, " which she described as her "private areas." R.W. told her mother that Stutzman had touched the inside of her thigh, which made her feel "weird." Angela addressed the ...


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