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Honeycutt v. Donat

United States District Court, D. Nevada

May 12, 2014

TODD M. HONEYCUTT, Petitioner,
v.
BILL DONAT, et al., Respondents.

ORDER

ROGER L. HUNT, District Judge.

This habeas matter comes before the Court on respondents' motion (#71) to reconsider order, which timely seeks amendment of the prior order and judgment (## 69 & 70) conditionally granting a writ of habeas corpus. The issue presented concerns the proper scope of the remedy on remand following upon a decision by the Court of Appeals affirming in part and reversing in part the prior denial of federal habeas relief.

Background

Petitioner Todd Honeycutt challenges his 1999 Nevada state conviction, pursuant to a jury verdict, of: (a) one count of first-degree kidnapping and two counts of sexual assault in No. C151952 (the "sexual assault case"); and (b) one count of solicitation of murder in No. C156839 (the "solicitation case").

Honeycutt initially was charged in the sexual assault case with the May 16, 1998, first-degree kidnapping and sexual assault of Karen Bates. The first trial ended in a mistrial due to a hung jury.

Prior to the retrial in the sexual assault case, Honeycutt was charged in the solicitation case with allegedly having sought in November and December 1998 to have Bates murdered.

The cases were joined for trial on the State's motion and over a defense objection.

At the hearing on the motion for joinder, the State argued, inter alia, as follows in support of joinder of the cases for trial:

These two cases, it is absolutely compelling how interrelated they are. Any argument that they are not interrelated is quite frankly, just [specious]. I mean, if you look at it, you have this defendant on, in May of 1998... sexually assaulting and kidnaping this victim and... from that day on he has engaged in a continuous course of conduct with this victim.... [W]hat we have was... the sexual assault and the kidnaping and then when he was taken into custody we had phone calls to the victim on the eve of the preliminary hearing to intimidate, we had letters to the victim during the process, ultimately leading up until after the first trial with the hung jury and the defendant actually soliciting the murder of the sexual assault victim, hoping that that would take care [of it] and cause his sexual assault case to be dismissed.
There is no way you can try the solicitation for murder case without going into the facts of the sexual assault and kidnaping case. I mean, that... clearly goes to the motive and intent as to why he wanted this woman murdered, is because she reported him and went through the criminal justice process against him as a defendant in a rape case. So the two case[s] are very much interrelated.
Additionally, the solicitation for murder evidence is cross admissible as evidence of consciousness of guilt and the case law also supports that. In Abram vs. State... the court held that it is sometimes relevant to show that an accused has threatened a witness with violence. The court further ruled that declarations made after the commission of the crime which indicate consciousness of guilt or are inconsistent with innocense or tend to establish intent may be admissible. And in Reese v. State... the court ruled that the conduct of an accused which show[s] consciousness of guilt is admissible even though it may in itself be criminal. I would submit to you judge that this defendant hiring another inmate to murder the victim in this case absolutely shows consciousness of guilt as to his sexual assault and kidnap case.

#20, Ex. 24, at 2-3.

At the joint trial, the State introduced testimony by a jailhouse informant and an undercover officer that petitioner allegedly solicited them to murder the victim. The State introduce this testimony, inter alia, to establish consciousness of guilt on the sexual assault case - i.e., as inculpatory evidence as to a case where he had been represented by counsel at the time of the statements. Evidence of guilt on the sexual assault case - including this evidence of alleged consciousness of guilt - in turn was used to establish motive in the solicitation case. No limiting instruction was given restricting this dual use of the evidence. Indeed, such dual use was the raison d'ĂȘtre for the joinder of the ...


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