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State v. Standley

Supreme Court of Montana

August 20, 2019

STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
DONNIE STANDLEY, Defendant and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: July 17, 2019

          Appeal From: District Court of the Sixth Judicial District, In and For the County of Sweet Grass, Cause No. DC-2016-06 Honorable Brenda R. Gilbert, Presiding Judge.

          For Appellant: Chad Wright, Appellate Defender, Gregory Hood, Assistant Appellate Defender, Helena, Montana

          For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Tammy K Plubell, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana Daniel Guzynski, Mary E. Cochenour, Sweet Grass County Special Deputy Attorneys, Big Timber, Montana

          OPINION

          LAURIE MCKINNON 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 Donnie Standley (Standley) appeals his felony incest conviction from the Sixth Judicial District Court, Sweet Grass County. We affirm.

         ¶3 The State charged Standley with incest on April 6, 2016, stemming from an incident that took place the night of his daughter's (K.V.) eleventh birthday on September 22, 2009. When the incident occurred, K.V. and Standley shared a bed and a bedroom in Standley's parents' home in Reed Point, Montana. K.V. testified at trial that she awoke the night of her party when she felt her pants being pulled down. After she saw Standley's silhouette, he initiated sexual contact with her until she hit at him and told him to get away from her. Standley was newly divorced from his wife (K.V.'s step-mother) when the incident occurred. His ex-wife had attended K.V.'s party and spent the night at Standley's parents' house to avoid driving back to her residence in Billings. Standley testified that, prior to him laying down on the bed he shared with K.V., he had asked his ex-wife to come and sleep with him instead of sleeping on the couch. He stated that he had fallen asleep with K.V. on the bed next to him while waiting for his ex-wife to come into the bedroom. Standley maintained that while he was aware that the sexual contact had occurred, he was not aware that the recipient of his contact was K.V. until he fully awoke, at which point he immediately stopped the contact. Standley testified that he believed his ex-wife was the recipient of his sexual advances.

         ¶4 The District Court delivered 28 jury instructions at Standley's trial in May of 2017. Standley's counsel objected to two jury instructions, neither of which is relevant to this appeal. The jury convicted Standley of incest following a three-day trial, and Standley was subsequently sentenced to 100 years in prison with 75 years suspended. Standley contests his conviction on appeal, arguing that the District Court did not properly instruct the jury and that his trial counsel was ineffective. We find the jury was fully and fairly instructed and counsel was not ineffective. Accordingly, we affirm.

         ¶5 Standley argues two issues on appeal which we address in turn. First, Standley argues that the District Court committed plain error by failing to instruct the jury on the requisite mental state for each element of the charged offense. "Plain error review is discretionary, and we apply it on a case-by-case basis." State v. Favel, 2015 MT 336, ¶ 13, 381 Mont. 472, 362 P.3d 1126. "Before this Court will find plain error, the appealing party must: (1) show that the claimed error implicates a fundamental right and (2) firmly convince this Court that failure to review the claimed error would result in a manifest miscarriage of justice, leave unsettled the question of the fundamental fairness of the trial or proceedings, or compromise the integrity of the judicial process." Favel, ¶ 23 (internal quotations and citations omitted).

         ¶6 A district court has broad discretion in instructing a jury. Jury instructions are sufficient as long as they fully and fairly instruct the jury as to the charged crimes. The District Court in the instant case delivered jury instructions in accord with Montana's Criminal Jury Instruction Guidelines. See MCJI 5-127, -127(a). Standley has not proven that the District Court's jury instructions constitute plain error. The District Court fully and fairly instructed the jury, and thus the claimed error has not implicated a fundamental right nor is the Court convinced that failure to review the claimed error would result in a manifest miscarriage of justice, leave unsettled the question of the fundamental fairness of the trial or proceedings, or compromise the integrity of the judicial process. Therefore, we will not invoke plain error review.

         ¶7 The second issue on appeal is whether Standley's counsel was ineffective in failing to object to the District Court's jury instruction and failing to submit the proper mental state instruction. Ineffective assistance of counsel (IAC) claims present mixed issues of law and fact that we review de novo. State v. Clary, 2012 MT 26, ¶ 12, 364 Mont. 53, 270 P.3d 88. "Generally, to establish ineffectiveness, a defendant must show that (1) counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness and (2) there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different." City of Libby v. Hubbard, 2018 MT 2, ¶ 14, 390 Mont. 108, 408 P.3d 532 (citing Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 688, 694, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 2065, 2068, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984)). A District Court has broad discretion when delivering jury instructions. See State v. Santiago, 2018 MT 13, ¶ 7, 390 Mont. 154, 415 P.3d 972. Jury instructions, as a whole, in a criminal case are intended to fully and fairly instruct the jury on the law applicable to that instant case. See Santiago, ¶ 7.

         ¶8 Standley was charged with the crime of incest pursuant to § 45-5-507(1), MCA, which states:

A person commits the offense of incest if the person knowingly marries, cohabits with, has sexual intercourse with, or has sexual contact, as defined in 45-2-101, with an ancestor, a descendant, a brother or sister of the whole, or half blood, or any stepson or stepdaughter. The relationships referred to in this subsection include blood relationships without regard to legitimacy, ...

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