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A motion to reduce an otherwise lawful sentence under Idaho R. Crim. P. 35 is addressed to the sound discretion of the trial court. Such a motion is essentially a plea for leniency, which may be granted if the sentence originally imposed was unduly severe. The denial of a motion for reduction under Rule 35 will not be disturbed on appeal absent a showing that the court abused its discretion. The criteria for examining rulings denying the requested leniency are the same as those applied in determining whether the original sentence was unreasonable.
Defendant Vicki A. Jensen murdered her husband's girlfriend by injecting her with insulin. Defendant pled guilty to first degree murder. After a hearing, at which both the state and defendant presented evidence, defendant was sentenced to determinate life term in prison. Defendant subsequently filed a Rule 35 motion for reduction of her sentence, which was denied. On appeal, defendant argued that the trial court erred by denying her motion for a reduction of her sentence, because the trial court gave too much weight to her husband's testimony at the sentencing hearing. Defendant argued that her husband was not a credible witness. In order to prove her claim, defendant submitted an affidavit of her husband after her sentencing hearing, in which defendant’s husband admitted to forging her name to the couple's joint federal tax return despite knowing defendant’s whereabouts. Defendant claimed that the affidavit demonstrated that her husband lied during his testimony at her sentencing hearing.
Did the trial court err in denying defendant’s Rule 35 motion for reduction of her sentence due to the fact that the court gave too much weight on defendant husband’s testimony at the sentencing hearing?
The court of appeals disagreed with the defendant’s contention, holding that the record reflected that the defendant's husband was questioned on cross-examination about the tax return, but claimed his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent when asked if he had forged the defendant's signature. He did not testify that he did not forge the defendant's signature. Thus, the defendant's claim that her husband's affidavit demonstrated that he lied at her sentencing hearing was unpersuasive. Moreover, the credibility of witnesses, the weight to be given their testimony, and the reasonable inferences to be drawn from the evidence were all matters within the province of the trial court. Therefore, the defendant failed to show that the trial court abused its discretion in denying her motion.