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State v. Brown

Supreme Court of Montana

October 9, 2018

STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
STUART RICHARD BROWN, Defendant and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: July 18, 2018

          District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, In and For the County of Missoula, Cause No. DC-2014-479 Honorable John W. Larson, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant: Chad Wright, Appellate Defender, Moses Okeyo, Assistant Appellate Defender, Helena, Montana

          For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Ryan W. Aikin, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana Kirsten Pabst, Missoula County Attorney, Missoula, Montana


          James Jeremiah Shea, Justice.

         ¶1 Pursuant to Section I, Paragraph 3(c), Montana Supreme Court Internal Operating Rules, this case is decided by memorandum opinion and shall not be cited and does not serve as precedent. Its case title, cause number, and disposition shall be included in this Court's quarterly list of noncitable cases published in the Pacific Reporter and Montana Reports.

         ¶2 Defendant Stuart Richard Brown appeals from the judgment and sentence of the Fourth Judicial District Court, Missoula County, finding him guilty of felony escape. We affirm in part and reverse in part.

         ¶3 On August 30, 2014, Police Officer Brian Vreeland (Officer Vreeland) was on duty in downtown Missoula when he and two other officers entered a bar. Officer Vreeland recognized Brown from an earlier intelligence briefing as someone with an outstanding arrest warrant. He approached Brown, identified himself as a police officer, and escorted Brown outside. Officer Vreeland requested Brown's identification, and Brown said he did not have any. Brown stated that his name was Richard Derchief, and he provided several different birth dates. Officer Vreeland, unconvinced by Brown's answers, continued to ask for his name and date of birth. Brown continued to say, "Derchief," and gave multiple inconsistent spellings. Officer Vreeland then leaned Brown against the police car and handcuffed Brown's hands behind his back, while another officer patted Brown down for weapons and contraband. Officer Vreeland momentarily took his hands off of Brown, and Brown ran down the street, away from the officers. The officers gave chase and eventually located and detained Brown in a parking lot a few blocks away. On November 12, 2014, the State filed an amended information charging Brown with one count of felony escape, in violation of § 45-7-306, MCA. Brown pled not guilty.

         ¶4 During voir dire, the State's counsel asked a series of hypothetical questions designed to elicit a definition and understanding of what constituted "custody" and what it meant to be "in custody." After the jury was empaneled, the District Court gave introductory instructions and instructions regarding the elements of escape and the applicable mental state.

         ¶5 On November 21, 2014, a jury trial was held. During trial, prior to Brown taking the stand, the District Court stated that it would follow its "practice" for testifying in-custody defendants-which is to station a security officer near the jury box between the defendant and "the jury and [courtroom staff] and [the judge]." The District Court stated that it utilized this practice "regardless of the charge" or other circumstances. Defense counsel objected, arguing the measure was extreme and suggested to jurors that Brown was a danger. Defense counsel suggested an alternative location where a security officer could stand to avoid "giv[ing] the wrong impression to the jury. . . ." The District Court noted counsel's objection but declined to "mak[e] any distinction between Mr. Brown and any of the other hundreds of incarcerated folks who've testified in any courtroom[]."

         ¶6 At trial, the jury watched police vehicle dash camera footage of Brown outside the bar being patted down by officers and then running away. Officer Vreeland testified that upon initially encountering Brown, he was immediately confident of Brown's identity, despite the false information Brown provided. Officer Vreeland testified that after leading Brown outside the bar, he told Brown he would hold him until he had verified Brown's identity. Officer Vreeland acknowledged that he never read Brown Miranda warnings but claimed that he "informed [Brown] he was under arrest" when he handcuffed Brown. Officer Vreeland also testified that not all detentions are formal arrests, not everyone who is detained is "going to wind up being arrested," and that, on occasion, he will handcuff someone who is not under arrest.

         ¶7 Brown testified that he was uncooperative with the officers because he knew he had an outstanding arrest warrant and did not want to go to jail. Brown acknowledged he did not feel free to leave the encounter with Officer Vreeland. However, Brown did not think he was under formal arrest because Officer Vreeland told Brown he was "being detained." Brown testified that the officers did not tell him he was under arrest or read him his Miranda warnings before he ran. Prior to submitting the case to the jury, the District Court provided instructions on the elements of the offense of escape, § 45-7-306, MCA, but did not again instruct the jury on state of mind.

         ¶8 On November 21, 2014, a jury convicted Brown of escape. On November 13, 2015, the District Court sentenced Brown to twenty years in Montana State Prison, with ten years suspended. At the sentencing hearing, the District Court recommended Brown participate in one of two existing treatment programs: Nexus or Boot Camp. The District Court stated that both programs were "available to" Brown, and that the District Court "strongly recommend[ed] he get into those programs[] and [would] be happy to talk to anybody or file anything with the department . . . ." The written judgment did not include the recommendation that Brown participate in either of the treatment programs. The written judgment did include the condition that Brown "register as a Violent Offender in compliance with [§ 46-23-504, MCA] . . . ." Brown appeals.

         ¶9 This Court reviews a district court's decision to restrain a criminal defendant at trial for an abuse of discretion. State v. Herrick, 2004 MT 323, ¶¶ 14-15, 324 Mont. 74, 101 P.3d 755. Our review of the constitutional issue of due process, a matter of law, is plenary. In re T.W., 2005 MT 340, ¶ 11, 330 Mont. 84, 126 P.3d 491. Claims of ineffective assistance of counsel are mixed questions of law and fact that we review de novo. Whitlo ...

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