The Appellate Group

State v. Paule

State v. Paule, 2024 UT 2 (Durrant, C.J.)

Criminal Law / Statutory Interpretation

Defendant was convicted of obstruction of justice but acquitted of multiple charges, including murder. He moved to arrest judgment on the ground that the obstruction conviction was legally inconsistent with his acquittal of the other charged crimes. The district court denied the motion. Defendant appealed arguing the district court erred and he received ineffective assistance of counsel. The court of appeals affirmed. The Utah Supreme Court affirmed, holding in part:

  • The court of appeals correctly upheld the jury’s verdict that Defendant violated the obstruction of justice statute. The jury’s verdict was not legally impossible.
  • The court of appeals erred in not considering the exact language of the jury instructions, but the error was harmless.
  • Practice tip: Obstruction of justice does not require the State to prove a separate crime. It is legally possible for a jury to convict a defendant of obstruction and acquit the defendant on all other charged crimes.
  • Practice tip: A jury unanimity problem can be avoided if the State identifies for the jury which act supports each charge.
  • Practice tip: The Utah Supreme Court is “disinclined to review” an issue not raised in a petition for writ of certiorari but briefed by the party.

Read the full court opinion