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Utah Court of Appeals

October 18, 2018
The Great Hall

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On Thursday, October 18 at 11:30 a.m., Southern Utah University and A.P.E.X. Events hosted a live Court of Appeals session in the Great Hall in the Hunter Conference Center. Cases presented were State v. Wright and State v. Hunt, and the judges presiding were Gregory K. Orme, Mary Kate A. Toomey, and Ryan M. Harris.

SUU Press Release

State v. Wright, 20150153:
Defendant Blake Wright was charged with aggravated kidnapping, attempted murder, and a number of other crimes. On the third day of trial, he entered guilty pleas. He later moved to withdraw the guilty pleas, and his motion was denied. On appeal, his primary contention is that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance to him, in violation of his Sixth Amendment rights. To prevail on such a claim, he must demonstrate both objectively deficient performance by his trial counsel and that the deficient performance prejudiced him, meaning that the outcome for Wright was worse than it would have been had counsel performed effectively. Wright's attorney on appeal outlines eight specific instances of claimed ineffective assistance by trial counsel. The State's primary position is that trial counsel's "lackluster" performance was not the reason Wright pled guilty; he pled guilty, the State argues, because of the compelling nature of the victim's testimony and the effect it had on the jury.

State v. Hunt, 20160963: 
Marvin Hunt owned livestock that grazed the open range, and so did his neighbor, and sometimes their livestock would interact.  Hunt became upset with one of the neighbor's stallions, named Confetti Magic that had apparently been impregnating Hunt's mares.   Hunt also viewed Confetti Magic as a particularly aggressive stallion, and on one occasion Hunt claimed that the stallion charged him in a threatening manner.  At that point, Hunt stated that he had "had it," and proceeded to capture Confetti Magic and another stallion in a corral and castrate them.  The State brought charges against Hunt for wanton destruction of livestock, a class A misdemeanor, and a jury found him guilty.  Hunt now appeals, asserting that the governing statute is unconstitutionally vague, that the trial court provided erroneous instructions to the jury, and that the harm to the stallions was improperly valued.   The State asks us to affirm Hunt's conviction. 



Event Reflection

by Billy Clouse

On October 18, 2018, SUU once again was the host of a special session of the Utah Court of Appeals. Students, faculty, and community members had the opportunity to sit in on a case in the Great Hall of the Hunter Conference Center, which was heard by judges Gregory Orme, Mary Kate Toomey, and Ryan Harris.

At the 11:30 a.m. event, the case of State v. Hunt began.

Marvin Hunt owned livestock that grazed the open range, and so did his neighbor, and sometimes their livestock would interact. Hunt became upset with one of the neighbor's stallions, named Confetti Magic that had apparently been impregnating Hunt's mares.  Hunt also viewed Confetti Magic as a particularly aggressive stallion, and on one occasion Hunt claimed that the stallion charged him in a threatening manner. At that point, Hunt stated that he had "had it," and proceeded to capture Confetti Magic and another stallion in a corral and castrate them.

This case was run like any other with only one exception; both sides had an extra five minutes to explain the facts of the case and original decision so the audience could understand what was going on.

Throughout the appeal, Hunt's side argued that under legal definition, Confetti Magic and the other stallion were considered strays because they weren't branded and were running wild, but the State countered, saying all that mattered was that Hunt knew he didn't own the horses, making it illegal to castrate them.

Hunt's attorney argued that Confetti Magic's owner never intended to breed him, and that he became more pleasant to ride and control after the procedure. This argument was intended to show that he was returned in better condition, which the State then argued didn't matter. According to the attorney, any alteration, even if it improves the property, isn't allowed without express permission from the owner; according to him, even if the stallion was returned with diamond-studded earrings that increased its value by hundreds or thousands of dollars, the law was still violated.

Although the audience didn't find out the result of the appeal — judges take time to consider the information presented — they had the opportunity to ask questions following the case.

In response to one of the questions, Judge Orme, who has been with the Court since its founding in 1987, said the Utah Court of Appeals was designed in a way to make sure multiple opinions were heard. Although having at least one judge who was considered an "expert" in an area of law was an option, a concern was that the other two judges could be influenced by the "expert" opinion.

According to Orme, by having judges who are less familiar with an area of law review the case, it forces all three to become experts in that subset of law.



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