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State v. Sheffield

Supreme Court of Hawaii

January 2, 2020

STATE OF HAWAI'I, Respondent/Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
DAVID M. SHEFFIELD, Petitioner/Defendant-Appellant.

          APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SECOND CIRCUIT (CAAP-17-0000707; 2PC161000068)

          Matthew S. Kohm for petitioner

          Emlyn Higa for respondent

          RECKTENWALD, C.J., NAKAYAMA, McKENNA, POLLACK, AND WILSON, JJ.

          OPINION

          McKENNA, J.

         I. Introduction

         David M. Sheffield ("Sheffield"), a stranger to the complaining witness ("CW"), allegedly followed her while she walked along a street at night, stated that he wanted to beat her up and have sex with her, pulled a loop on her backpack as she tried to cross a street at a crosswalk, and dragged her backwards about five or ten steps before she broke free. Sheffield was charged with one count of kidnapping in violation of Hawai'i Revised Statutes ("HRS") § 707-720(1)(d) (2014), [1] a class A felony punishable with up to twenty years of imprisonment, [2] and one count of third degree assault, [3] a misdemeanor punishable with up to one year of imprisonment.[4] At the State's request, the third degree assault count was dismissed before trial. Sheffield was tried by a jury in the Circuit Court of the Second Circuit[5] ("circuit court") and found guilty on the kidnapping count. He now appeals, and this court accepted transfer of the appeal from the ICA.

         On appeal, Sheffield argues that, when kidnapping is the only count tried, the State must prove the defendant used a greater degree of "restraint" than that incidentally used to commit the underlying unprosecuted assault in the third degree offense. He also argues the jury should have been so instructed. Sheffield asserts that the act of pulling the loop on CWs backpack and dragging her backwards five to ten steps was insufficient evidence of "restraint" to support the kidnapping conviction. He asks this court to reverse his conviction based upon insufficiency of the evidence, or, in the alternative, to vacate his conviction and remand this case to the circuit court for further proceedings.

         We hold that the "restraint" required to support a kidnapping conviction under HRS § 707-720(1)(d) is indeed restraint in excess of any restraint incidental to the infliction or intended infliction of bodily injury or subjection or intended subjection of a person to a sexual offense; therefore, the circuit court plainly erred in failing to so instruct the jury. Hence, we vacate the circuit court's judgment of conviction and sentence and remand this case to the circuit court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         II. Background

         A. Indictment

         On January 25, 2016, the State charged Sheffield by indictment with Count One: kidnapping, under HRS § 707- 720(1)(d), and Count Two: assault in the third degree, under HRS § 707-712(1)(a). Prior to trial, the State filed a motion to dismiss Count Two without prejudice, which the circuit court granted.

         B. Trial Testimony

         Sheffield's conviction relies on CWs testimony, which we summarize in the light most favorable to the prosecution. CW was a 24-year-old University of Hawai'i Maui College student on November 16, 2015. That night, one of her classes had run long, so she left school later than usual, after 7:30 p.m. When she arrived at the bus station, it appeared empty, so she believed she missed the last bus to upcountry Maui, where she lived. She decided to walk through Kahului towards the highway to hitchhike. As she walked down Alamaha Street, she heard male voices yelling at her to "come hang out," but she kept going. She rolled a cigarette but realized she had no lighter, so she purchased a lighter at a store. As she exited the store, she heard a male voice yelling at her to stop and wait.

         A stranger (later identified as Sheffield) then approached CW. She kept walking half a block before he started yelling to her again. As CW entered a crosswalk, Sheffield again ran up to her and asked for a cigarette. When CW refused, he followed her and kept asking her why she was avoiding him and stating that he wanted her to come to his house.

         CW testified that she thought Sheffield was "kind of like a crazy old guy" and did not initially feel threatened by him. She testified, however, that he started becoming more aggressive with her, running in front of her and putting his arms out to block her way, all the while questioning her. Then, according to CW, the stranger told her, "I want to fuck you." He then said he "was going to knock [her] out" and put his hands up near his face before taking a swing at CW. CW stated Sheffield missed her face because he was not a skilled fighter.

         As CW turned to run away, Sheffield grabbed a loop on the back of her backpack and pulled her backwards towards the bushes, again repeating "more of the fucking kind of stuff" and that "he was going to beat [her] up." CW testified that Sheffield's voice became "low, mean, and aggressive." She struggled to break free because her backpack was strapped together in the front and she could not undo the buckle. Sheffield pulled CW back "five or maybe ten steps," and every now and then, he would yank on the backpack and "force [her] back . . . another step." When he had pulled her all the way to the curb, he could not pull her any farther.

         Sheffield then gave CW a very hard tug, and she spun around, causing him to lose his grip on her backpack loop. She spun around again and ran into the street to escape him. Sheffield pursued her, but both became caught among moving traffic. CW was able to run up the street towards a hardware store. Having eluded Sheffield, CW then called her boyfriend to explain what had happened and asked for a ride home.

         C. Jury Instructions

         After the evidentiary portion of the trial, the circuit court instructed the jury on kidnapping as follows:

The defendant, DAVID MICHAEL SHEFFIELD, is charged with the offense of Kidnapping.
A person commits the offense of Kidnapping if he intentionally or knowingly restrains another person with intent to inflict bodily injury upon that person or subject that person to a sexual offense.
There are three material elements of the offense of Kidnapping, each of which the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt. These three elements are:
1. That, on or about the 16th day of November, 2015, in the County of Maui, State of Hawai'i, the Defendant restrained another person; and
2. That the Defendant did so intentionally or knowingly; and
3. That the Defendant did so with the intent to inflict bodily injury upon that person or subject that person to a sexual offense.

         As to the term "restrain," the circuit court instructed the jury that the term "means to restrict a person's movement in such a manner as to interfere substantially with her liberty by means of force," adapting the instruction from Hawai'i Pattern Jury Instructions - Criminal 9.00 (2014) to the evidence adduced at trial.[6]

         The circuit court also instructed the jury as to sexual assault in the first and second degree, as suggested by Hawai'i Pattern Jury Instructions - Criminal 9.34 (1996).[7] The court also instructed the jury that "bodily injury" means "physical pain, illness, or any impairment of physical condition." The circuit court also instructed the jury on the lesser included misdemeanor offense of unlawful imprisonment in the second degree.[8]

         D. Verdict, Conviction, Sentence, and Appeal

         The jury unanimously found Sheffield guilty as charged of kidnapping. The circuit court then sentenced Sheffield to 20 years of imprisonment.[9] Sheffield timely appealed, and we accepted transfer of this case.

         III. Standards of Review

         A. Sufficiency of the Evidence

We have long held that evidence adduced in the trial court must be considered in the strongest light for the prosecution when the appellate court passes on the legal sufficiency of such evidence to support a conviction; the same standard applies whether the case was before a judge or a jury. The test on appeal is not whether guilt is established beyond a reasonable doubt, but whether there was substantial evidence to support the conclusion of the trier of fact. Indeed, even if it could be said in a bench trial that the conviction is against the weight of the evidence, as long as there is substantial evidence to support the requisite findings for conviction, the trial court will be affirmed.
Substantial evidence as to every material element of the offense charged is credible evidence which is of sufficient quality and probative value to enable a person of reasonable caution to support a conclusion. And as trier of fact, the trial judge is free to make all reasonable and rational inferences under the facts in evidence, including circumstantial evidence.

State v. Matavale, 115 Hawai'i 149, 157-58, 166 P.3d 322, 330-31 (2007) (citation, quotation marks, and brackets omitted).

         B. Jury Instructions: Plain Error

As a general rule, jury instructions to which no objection has been made at trial will be reviewed only for plain error. An error will be deemed plain error if the substantial rights of the defendant have been affected adversely. Additionally, this court will apply the plain error standard of review to correct errors which seriously affect the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of judicial proceedings, to serve the ends of justice, and to prevent the denial of fundamental rights.

State v. Henley, 136 Hawai'i 471, 478, 363 P.3d 319, 326 (2015) (citations omitted).

         IV. The Parties' Arguments on Appeal

         A. Sheffield's Opening Brief

         In his Opening Brief, Sheffield asserts two points of error: (1) that insufficient evidence supported the kidnapping conviction, because the restraint Sheffield used against CW was only the restraint necessary to commit the "incidental" and unprosecuted offense, assault in the third degree; and (2) that the circuit court plainly erred in failing to instruct the jury on assault in the third degree (the dismissed and unprosecuted charge), because the jury should have been instructed that the restraint necessary for a kidnapping conviction must be restraint in excess of the restraint necessary to commit assault in the third degree.

         Sheffield first argues that the evidence adduced at trial was insufficient to support his kidnapping conviction because the "restraint" necessary to support a kidnapping conviction must be restraint in excess of that necessary to commit assault in the third degree, the dismissed and unprosecuted "incidental" offense in this case. Sheffield states that the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the prosecution, was that Sheffield "grab[bed] CW's backpack and pull[ed] her 5-10 steps backward before she [broke] free," which lasted about 15 seconds, after having stated that he "want[ed] to 'fuck' [CW] and 'beat' her up." Sheffield argues that Hawai'i's kidnapping statute was drawn from the Model Penal Code ("MPC"), whose Commentary states that the offense should apply only to "the most severe conduct, given the drastic penalties that attached to such a conviction," and should not be a "companion charge for every robbery, assault, and/or sexual assault," which also involve elements of force and restraint.

         To support his position, Sheffield extensively quotes the Commentary to the MPCs kidnapping offense. He notes that the Commentators criticized the states' expansive interpretation of the offense of kidnapping to prosecute the movement of victims that was only incidental to the commission, or attempted commission, of other crimes like robbery or rape. The Commentators warned against abusive prosecution under the kidnapping statute of conduct that is wrongful but should more appropriately be prosecuted as some other crime. The Commentators theorized that the expansion of kidnapping in this manner occurred due to the inadequacies of the law of attempt. Notably, Sheffield quoted the Commentary as stating, "Where the underlying crime is not completed, prosecution for kidnapping instead of attempt may amount to an end run around the special doctrinal protections designed for uncompleted crimes."

         Sheffield then summarizes case law from other jurisdictions purportedly holding that there was insufficient evidence to support a kidnapping conviction because the "restraint" used by the defendant was incidental to the commission of another offense, even an uncharged offense. See State v. Curreri, 213 P.3d 1084 (Kan.Ct.App. 2009); Hines v. State, 40 S.W.3d 705 (Tex. Ct. App. 2001); Alam v. State, 776 P.2d 345 (Alaska Ct. App. 1989); People v. Rappuhn, 260 N.W.2d 90 (Mich. Ct. App. 1977); State v. Rich, 305 N.W.2d 739 (Iowa 1981); State v. Salamon, 949 A.2d 1092 (Conn. 2008); U.S. v. Sanchez, 782 F.Supp. 94 (CD. Cal. 1992) .

         Sheffield then notes that there have been no Hawai'i cases exploring the level of restraint necessary to support a kidnapping conviction where there is an incidental but unprosecuted crime. He does note, however, that this court in State v. Deguair, 139 Hawai'i 117, 128, 384 P.3d 893, 904 (2016), held that a kidnapping conviction merges into a robbery conviction where the kidnapping is part of a continuous course of conduct in committing robbery. He also cites to the following Hawai'i appellate cases to show that a defendant can be convicted of kidnapping and another crime, where the restraint necessary to support the kidnapping conviction was in excess of any restraint necessary to support a conviction for a contemporaneously committed crime: State v. Hernandez, 61 Haw. 475, 605 P.2d 75 (1980) (per curiam); State v. Halemanu, 3 Haw.App. 300, 650 P.2d 587 (1982); and State v. Yamamoto, 98 Hawai'i 208, 46 P.3d 1092 (App. 2002).

         Sheffield argues that the evidence at trial did not show restraint in excess of what would have been used in committing assault in the third degree. Sheffield argues that his kidnapping conviction should therefore be reversed, as it is not supported by substantial evidence.

         Sheffield next addresses his second point of error on appeal: whether the circuit court plainly erred in failing to instruct the jury on assault in the third degree, and that the restraint necessary to support a kidnapping conviction had to exceed any restraint used to commit assault in the third degree. Again, he cites to cases from other jurisdictions, in which courts instructed juries that restraint, for purposes of kidnapping, must be greater than the restraint used in committing the other crime for which the defendant was charged (e.g., rape or robbery). See Alam, 776 P.2d 345; Rappuhn, 260 N.W.2d 90; Salamon, 949 A.2d 1092; People v. Bell, 102 Cal.Rptr.3d 300 (Cal.Ct.App. 2009); and State v. White, 362 S.W.3d 559 (Tenn. 2012)). Therefore, Sheffield argues, the circuit court plainly erred in failing to advise the jury of a heightened restraint requirement for kidnapping. Sheffield thus asks this court to "vacate the conviction" for kidnapping.

         In concluding his Opening Brief, Sheffield asks this court to reverse the circuit court's judgment due to insufficiency of the evidence supporting the conviction, or, alternatively, to vacate the judgment and remand this case to the circuit court for further proceedings.

         B. The ...


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