State of Utah v. Jackson

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State of Utah v. Jackson, Case No. 990565-CA, Filed August 23, 2001 IN THE UTAH COURT OF APPEALS


State of Utah,
Plaintiff and Appellee,


Lawrence Marshal Jackson,
Defendant and Appellant.

(Not For Official Publication)

Case No. 990565-CA

August 23, 2001 2001 UT App 250 -----

Eighth District, Vernal Department
The Honorable John R. Anderson

Wesley M. Baden, Vernal, for Appellant
Mark L. Shurtleff and Karen A. Klucznik, Salt Lake City, for Appellee


Before Judges Greenwood, Billings, and Thorne.

THORNE, Judge:

Defendant Lawrence Jackson appeals from a minimum mandatory sentence of fifteen years to life after pleading guilty to one count of Rape of a Child, a first degree felony, in violation of Utah Code Ann. § 76-5-402.1 (1999). We affirm.

Defendant argues the trial court committed plain error "by failing to make detailed factual findings on the record supporting imposition of the upper term of fifteen years to life imprisonment." We disagree. To establish plain error, defendant must demonstrate that "(i) [a]n error exists; (ii) the error should have been obvious to the trial court; and (iii) the error is harmful." State v. Dunn, 850 P.2d 1201, 1208 (Utah 1993).

Neither Utah Code Ann. § 76-3-201 (1999), nor Utah case law requires a trial court to painstakingly list and categorize, as either aggravating or mitigating, the factors it relies upon in imposing a sentence. In State v. Wright, 893 P.2d 1113 (Utah Ct. App. 1995), we addressed the minimum mandatory sentencing guidelines and explained: In imposing a sentence under Utah Code Ann. § 76-3-201 (1990), the trial court was required "to (1) identify the mitigating and aggravating circumstances[;] and (2) state the reasons for whichever minimum mandatory sentence is imposed." . . . The trial court begins with the presumption that defendant will be sentenced to a term of middle severity[. See Utah Code Ann. § 76-3-201(5)(a).] "The trial court must then determine whether it is appropriate, in light of the circumstances of an individual defendant, to vary from the statutory presumption of the term of middle severity." Id. at 1121 (citations omitted). We were careful to point out that "'[a] sentence will not be overturned on appeal unless the trial court has abused its discretion, failed to consider all legally relevant factors, or imposed a sentence that exceeds legally prescribed limits.'" Id. at 1120 (quoting State v. Nuttall, 861 P.2d 454, 457 (Utah Ct. App. 1993)).

Here, the trial court's findings more than adequately support its decision to impose the maximum sentence upon defendant. The trial court indicated, on the record, that it had reviewed defendant's presentence and diagnostic reports and listed a number of reasons sufficient to deviate from the sentencing guidelines and impose the higher sentence. Accordingly, the trial court's decision to impose the maximum sentence upon defendant was adequately supported by the record; therefore, we conclude that the trial court neither abused its discretion nor committed plain error by imposing the maximum sentence.

Next, defendant argues his trial counsel was ineffective "because she failed to bring the requirements of Utah Code Ann. § 76-3-201 to the [trial] court's attention." In reviewing an ineffective assistance of counsel claim [this court] appl[ies] the two part test of Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). To satisfy that test, the defendant must show: "(1) that counsel's performance was deficient below an objective standard of reasonable professional judgment, and (2) counsel's performance prejudiced defendant." . . . If a defendant fails to establish either of the two parts of the Strickland test, counsel's assistance was constitutionally sufficient, and we need not address the other part of the test. State v. Medina-Juarez, 2001 UT 65,¶14 (citation omitted).

In the present matter, defendant's claim fails because he has not shown that he was prejudiced by trial counsel's failure to point out section 76-3-201's requirements to the trial court. As stated above, the trial court adequately supported its decision to impose the maximum sentence upon defendant, and was under no requirement to list, point by point, the factors it relied upon in making its decision. Accordingly, we conclude that a different outcome would not have occurred had trial counsel brought the requirements to the court's attention.

Finally, defendant argues the trial court abused its discretion by denying his request for substitute counsel. "It is well established that to warrant substitution of counsel, a defendant 'must show good cause, such as a conflict of interest, a complete breakdown in communication[,] or an irreconcilable conflict which leads to an unjust verdict.'" State v. Lovell, 1999 UT 40,¶31, 948 P.2d 382 (citation omitted). Further, "when a defendant expresses dissatisfaction with counsel, a trial court 'must make some reasonable, non-suggestive efforts to determine the nature of the defendant's complaints.'" Id. at ¶27 (quoting State v. Pursifell, 746 P.2d 270, 273 (Utah Ct. App. 1987)).

In the present matter, the trial court inquired, on the record, about defendant's "dissatisfaction" with trial counsel. After hearing from defendant, the trial court concluded that there was not "a complete breakdown in communication," nor were defendant and trial counsel unable to work together. Id. at ¶31. Accordingly, our review of the record reveals that the trial court, while not a model of clarity in its inquiry, did satisfy the requirements set forth in Lovell.

The sentence imposed by the trial court is therefore affirmed.

William A. Thorne, Jr., Judge -----


Pamela T. Greenwood,
Presiding Judge

Judith M. Billings, Judge