State of Utah. v. Ray

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State v. Ray. Filed April 29, 1999 IN THE UTAH COURT OF APPEALS


State of Utah,
Plaintiff and Appellee,


Rodney Ray,
Defendant and Appellant.

(Not For Official Publication)

Case No. 981140-CA

April 29, 1999

1999 UT App 141 -----

Seventh District, Monticello Department
the Honorable Lyle R. Anderson

William L. Schultz, Moab, for Appellant
Jan Graham and Brent A. Burnett, Salt Lake City, for Appellee


Before Judges Greenwood, Davis, and Jackson.


Appellant Rodney Ray appeals from convictions, following a jury trial, of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, a second degree felony, kidnaping, a second degree felony, and aggravated assault, a third degree felony.

Ray contends the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt on any of the three offenses. In reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence to support a jury verdict, "we will reverse the conviction only when the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, 'is sufficiently inconclusive or inherently improbable that reasonable minds must have entertained a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime of which he was convicted.'" State v. Quada, 918 P.2d 883, 887 (Utah Ct. App. 1996) (citing State v. Marcum, 750 P.2d 599, 601 (Utah 1988)). In challenging the sufficiency of the evidence, an appellant "must marshal all evidence supporting the jury's verdict and must then show this marshaled evidence is insufficient to support the verdict even when viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict." State v. Lemons, 844 P.2d 378, 381 (Utah Ct. App. 1992).

Ray's challenge to the convictions of kidnaping and aggravated assault is based upon the claim the testimony of the victim Norma Jean Strong is not credible. "It is the exclusive function of the jury to weigh the evidence and to determine the credibility of the witnesses." State v. Webb, 790 P.2d 65, 84 (Utah Ct. App. 1990). We will not substitute our judgment for the jury's assessment of witness credibility. Ray challenges the victim's credibility, contending she was biased, testified based upon an improper motive, and had a poor reputation for truthfulness. However, the victim's testimony was supported in several important particulars by the testimony of disinterested witnesses. Witness Mary Sheldon saw a man jump from a car at Blue Hill and tackle another person. He remained on top of that person for a few minutes, and the person lay still on the ground for several minutes afterward. Sheldon provided a description of the vehicle and a license plate number, which matched Strong's vehicle. This corroborated a portion of the victim's account of the events at Blue Hill. The evidence of fresh injuries, including injuries consistent with the claim Ray dragged the victim across the ground to the car, was also corroborated by the testimony of a nurse practitioner who examined the victim. Finally, the victim's testimony was corroborated in part by Steve Caldwell and Joe Nelson who observed her lying in the backseat of her car in a fetal position and heard her screaming that she did not want to be hurt anymore. Nelson could not corroborate the evidence of injuries, but stated that his vision was impaired by a medical condition.

Ray also challenges the sufficiency of the evidence that he possessed methamphetamine with intent to distribute. Strong testified Ray had methamphetamine in his possession during the four days she was with him, that she used drugs provided by him, and that he had a habit of hiding drugs outside the motel rooms where they stayed. Police found drugs hidden outside and in proximity to the Monticello motel room. Strong identified the bag containing the methamphetamine as belonging to Ray. The methamphetamine was divided into several smaller packages, corroborating the other evidence of intent to distribute.

Considering the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict, we conclude it was not "sufficiently inconclusive or inherently improbable that reasonable minds must have entertained a reasonable doubt" that Ray committed the crimes of which he was convicted. Quada, 918 P.2d at 886. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment.

Pamela T. Greenwood,
Associate Presiding Judge

James Z. Davis, Judge

Norman H. Jackson, Judge