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State of South Dakota, Plaintiff and Appellee v. Trent Danielson

May 16, 2012

STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA, PLAINTIFF AND APPELLEE,
v.
TRENT DANIELSON, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE FOURTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT LAWRENCE COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA THE HONORABLE RANDALL L. MACY Judge

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gilbertson, Chief Justice

CONSIDERED ON BRIEFS ON FEBRUARY 14, 2012

[¶1.] A jury found Trent Danielson guilty of perjury. Danielson appeals, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the verdict, the trial court erred in denying his motion for a court-appointed private investigator, and the court erred in denying a motion in limine and admitting used transmission parts into evidence. We affirm.

FACTS

[¶2.] Rocket Lube of Spearfish, South Dakota, hired Danielson as a mechanic and automobile painter in 2003. Rocket Lube fired Danielson in 2006, claiming that Danielson stole auto parts and did not remit checks for work done by Danielson on vehicles belonging to Dr. Tom Cox.

[¶3.] Danielson was indicted on one count of grand theft and the case proceeded to a jury trial. During trial, the State argued that the checks from Dr. Cox were property of Rocket Lube. Danielson testified that he and Dr. Cox had a private agreement and that the checks belonged to him. According to Danielson's testimony, Dr. Cox felt that Rocket Lube was taking advantage of Dr. Cox and thus, Dr. Cox asked Danielson to work on Dr. Cox's vehicles in Danielson's spare time to save expenses. Danielson testified that he replaced a front clutch pack in the automatic transmission of Dr. Cox's 1950 Studebaker. Dr. Cox admitted that he felt that Rocket Lube was overcharging him, but he testified that he thought that Danielson was still acting as an agent of Rocket Lube when performing the work on Dr. Cox's vehicles. The jury found Danielson not guilty of grand theft.

[¶4.] Then, in October 2008, a grand jury indicted Danielson on one count of perjury during a felony trial. The indictment alleged that Danielson committed perjury during the grand theft jury trial by testifying falsely that "he had replaced parts inside the transmission of Dr. Tom Cox's 1950 Studebaker pick-up truck." The indictment further alleged that Danielson did not actually perform this work.

[¶5.] Danielson moved to dismiss the perjury indictment as a violation of the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy, arguing that the jury acquittal was a final determination that he did perform the work in question. The trial court agreed and granted Danielson's motion to dismiss. This Court reversed and remanded on appeal, holding that "Danielson has failed to satisfy his burden of demonstrating that the jury's not guilty verdict necessarily included an implicit factual finding that he performed the work on the 1950 Studebaker." State v. Danielson, 2010 S.D. 58, ¶¶ 11-12, 786 N.W.2d 354, 358.

[¶6.] On remand, the perjury case proceeded to a jury trial. The jury found Danielson guilty of perjury. Danielson appeals.

[¶7.] The issues on appeal are: 1. Whether the jury had sufficient evidence to find Danielson guilty of perjury. 2. Whether the trial court abused its discretion in denying Danielson's request for a court-appointed private investigator. 3. Whether the trial court abused its discretion in admitting used transmission parts into evidence. 4. Whether the trial court abused its discretion in denying Danielson's motion to dismiss based on the destruction of evidence.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

[¶8.] Danielson appeals the trial court's denial of his motion for judgment of acquittal. "We review the denial of a motion for judgment of acquittal as a question of law under the de novo standard." State v. Overbey, 2010 S.D. 78, ¶ 12, 790 N.W.2d 35, 40. "On appeal, the question before this Court is whether the evidence was sufficient to sustain the convictions." Id. "In measuring the sufficiency of the evidence, we ask whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." State v. Stark, 2011 S.D. 46, ¶ 21, 802 N.W.2d 165, 172. "We accept the evidence and the most favorable inferences fairly drawn therefrom, which will support the verdict." Id. In addition, "the jury is the exclusive judge of the credibility of the witnesses and the weight of the evidence." Id. "This Court will not resolve conflicts in the evidence, assess the credibility of witnesses, or evaluate the weight of the evidence." Id.

[¶9.] Danielson also appeals the trial court's denial of a motion for the appointment of a private investigator, a motion in limine, and a motion to dismiss based on the destruction of evidence. "The appointment of an expert is in the discretion of the trial court." In re E.L. and R.L., 2005 S.D. 124, ¶ 22, 707 N.W.2d 841, 847. This Court also reviews a "trial court's denial of a motion to dismiss [based on the destruction of evidence] under an abuse of discretion standard." State v. Williams, 2008 S.D. 29, ¶ 23, 748 N.W.2d 435, 442. In addition, we review "a trial court's evidentiary rulings under an abuse of discretion standard." State v. Fisher, 2011 S.D. 74, ¶ 32, 805 N.W.2d 571, 578. "An abuse of discretion refers to a discretion exercised to an end or purpose not justified by, and clearly against reason and evidence." Id. Furthermore, "[e]ven if a trial court's evidentiary ruling is erroneous, the error must be prejudicial in nature before we will overturn the ruling." Id. "Error is prejudicial when, in all probability . . . it produced some effect upon the final result and affected rights of the party assigning it." Id.

ANALYSIS

[ΒΆ10.] 1. Whether the jury had sufficient evidence to find ...


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