The Appellate Group

State v. Darnstaedt

State v. Darnstaedt, 2021 UT App 19 (Hagen, J.)

Criminal Law

Defendant was convicted of sexual exploitation of a minor for knowingly possessing child pornography files, which were discovered on a shared, unprotected computer. On appeal, Defendant arguments included that his trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective for failing to argue that there was insufficient evidence that he possessed the files, as well as for not ensuring the jury was properly instructed concerning the meaning of possession as an element of the offense. The Court of Appeals affirmed:

  • The Court rejected the argument that counsel was ineffective for failing to making a specific directed verdict regarding the lack of evidence of possession on the basis that Defendant had not been prejudiced.
  • The Court held counsel was not ineffective for failing to ensure that the jury was instructed regarding the meaning of possession because there could have been a sound strategic reason for not requesting an instruction on what constitutes constructive possession of electronic files.

Read the full court opinion