State of Utah v. Fletcher

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State v. Fletcher. Filed September 10, 1999 IN THE UTAH COURT OF APPEALS


State of Utah,
Plaintiff and Appellee,


Lyle Fletcher,
Defendant and Appellant.

(Not For Official Publication)

Case No. 981041-CA

September 10, 1999
  1999 UT App 256 -----

Fourth District, Provo Department
The Honorable Guy R. Burningham

Margaret P. Lindsay, Provo, for Appellant
Jan Graham and Laura B. Dupaix, Salt Lake City, for Appellee


Before Judges Bench, Davis, and Jackson.

BENCH, Judge:

Defendant argues that his conviction for sexual abuse of a child should be reversed because he was denied the effective assistance of counsel. For purposes of this appeal, the State concedes that defendant's trial counsel may have performed deficiently. The case therefore turns on whether defendant has demonstrated "that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different. A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome." Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 694, 104 S. Ct. 2052, 2068 (1984).

Our confidence in the jury's verdict is not undermined by any deficiencies in defendant's representation because the State's case against defendant was so strong that there was no reasonable probability of a more favorable outcome without the deficiencies. The strength of the case is demonstrated by a multitude of facts, including the following: the victim's detailed account of the abuse, which always remained consistent; the victim never implicated anyone other than defendant; the medical testimony confirmed that the child had been sexually abused; and the defendant was continually evasive with the victim's parents, the police, and the court. When viewed together, these facts provide substantial and compelling evidence of defendant's guilt. The jury, having received this overwhelming evidence, would not reasonably have reached a different decision if the prior bad acts had not been introduced. See State v. Hamilton, 827 P.2d 232, 240 (Utah 1992) ("The more evidence supporting the verdict, the less likely there was harmful error."). Simply stated, defendant's ineffective assistance of counsel claim fails because, even without the alleged deficiencies in counsel's representation, there was no reasonable probability that the result of the proceeding would have been different.

Defendant also seeks reversal of his conviction by arguing that the trial court committed plain error in allowing introduction of prior bad acts evidence. Ineffective assistance of counsel and plain error share a common prejudice standard. See State v. Verde, 770 P.2d 116, 124 n.15 (Utah 1989). Therefore, because we have determined that defendant was not prejudiced by the conduct of his counsel, he could not have been prejudiced by plain error. See State v. Ellifritz, 835 P.2d 170, 174 (Utah Ct. App. 1992) ("Failure to meet the plain error requirement of prejudice means that defendant likewise fails to meet the required showing under the ineffective assistance of counsel standard.").

In light of our determination that defendant was not prejudiced by the evidence now challenged, both of his arguments fail. Accordingly, we affirm defendant's conviction.

Russell W. Bench, Judge



James Z. Davis, Judge

Norman H. Jackson, Judge