Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State v. Russell

Supreme Court of Montana

February 13, 2018

STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
CLAYTON RUSSELL, Defendant and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: November 15, 2017

         APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Eighteenth Judicial District, In and For the County of Gallatin, Cause No. DC 15-35A Honorable Holly Brown, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant: Chad Wright, Appellate Defender, Koan Mercer, Assistant Appellate Defender, Helena, Montana

          For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Ryan Aikin, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana

          Martin D. Lambert, Gallatin County Attorney, Eric N. Kitzmiller, Chief Deputy County Attorney, Bozeman, Montana

          JAMES JEREMIAH SHEA JUDGE

         ¶1 Defendant Clayton Russell ("Russell") appeals from the jury verdict and sentence of the Eighteenth Judicial District, Gallatin County, for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), fourth or subsequent offense, a felony, in violation of § 61-8-401, MCA.

         ¶2 We address the following issue on appeal:

         Whether the District Court erred by denying Russell's for-cause challenge to a prospective juror.

         ¶3 We affirm.

         PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         ¶4 On February 3, 2015, the State charged Russell with felony DUI.[1] During voir dire, Russell's defense counsel, John Hud, questioned jurors individually. One prospective juror, Kaylie Utter ("Utter"), stated that she had "a couple of experiences that might influence [her] opinions" in this case. Utter explained that a close friend died in a drunk driving accident, and that her son-in-law was recently involved in a drunk driving accident. While Utter could not definitively answer whether those experiences would impact her ability to be fair or impartial, she admitted that it "definitely affects [her] opinions." When asked if she was more inclined to believe a police officer's testimony and find Russell guilty, Utter stated, "[t]hat could be; I can't say for sure but it's possible." In response to follow-up questions regarding her ability to neutrally evaluate potential evidence, Utter answered, "yes" when the prosecutor asked whether her life experiences would cause her to evaluate the evidence in a certain way. As to whether Russell's refusal to submit to a breath test in and of itself results in an assumption of guilt, Utter stated that she might infer guilt from a defendant's refusal to submit to a breath test. Russell challenged Utter for cause, and the District Court excused Utter "based on the experiences that she's had personally and the indication that those experiences would maybe influence her decision."

         ¶5 Upon Utter being excused, the District Court called Prospective Juror Donald Platisha ("Platisha"), who immediately stated that he "might be in the same position as the last juror." In a follow-up question, Platisha explained that his sister was injured, and his brother-in-law killed, by a drunk driver. When pressed directly as to whether he thought his experiences would make it hard for him to be a fair in a DUI case, Platisha stated, "I'm like [Utter]. I don't know." Defense Counsel Hud followed up:

Defense Counsel: Okay. But even with the presumption of innocence, Mr. Russell and the defense would have a hard time convincing you of his position in this case; is that fair?
Platisha: I don't believe that's true, no.
Defense Counsel: Okay. Well, we have a situation here where Mr. Russell was arrested so a police officer believes something was wrong. The police officer's report was sent to the prosecutor and[, ] based on the report, charges were filed against him. And now he's sitting here at trial. Would it be fair to say in your mind something must ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.