Thursday, May 10, 2007

Summary 2007 WY 76

Summary of Decision issued May 10, 2007

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Summaries are prepared by Law Librarians and are not official statements of the Wyoming Supreme Court.

Case Name: Martin v. State

Citation: 2007 WY 76

Docket Number: 05-263

Appeal from the District Court of Campbell County, the Honorable John R. Perry, Judge

Representing Appellant (Defendant): Kenneth M. Koski, State Public Defender; Donna D. Domonkos, Appellate Coounsel; Diane Courselle, Faculty Director, UW Defender Aid; Vincent P. Schutte and Daniel B. Kelley, Student Interns. Argument by Mr. Kelley.

Representing Appellee (Plaintiff): Patrick J. Crank, Attorney General; Paul Rehurek, Deputy Attorney General; D. Michael Pauling, Senior Assistant Attorney General; and James Michael Causey, Assistant Attorney General. Argument by Mr. Causey.

Issues: Whether the district court erred by allowing hearsay accounts of uncharged misconduct evidence, when the victim was available and testified at trial. Whether the form of the evidence and the uses to which the court told the jury the evidence could be put improper. Whether the district court erred in allowing a mental health expert to invade the province of the jury and exceed her expertise by letting her testify to her semantic interpretation that Martin’s statements showed he intended to kill his wife.

Standard of Review: The district court’s ruling regarding the admission of evidence will not be disturbed absent a finding of a clear abuse of discretion. The burden is on the appellant to establish the district court abused its discretion. If the Court holds the district court erred then they must determine whether the error affected any of Martin’s substantial rights or whether the error was harmless.
Facts/Discussion: Martin was found guilty of attempted second-degree murder in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. §§ 6-2-104 and 6-1-301.
W.R.E. 801(d)(1)(B): The Court reviewed the four requirements that must be satisfied before a prior consistent statement will be properly admissible and applied them to the testimony given by Officer Hloucal and Officer West. The Court found that Officer Hloucal’s testimony was properly admitted. The testimony given by Officer West caused concern but the Court found the error to be harmless because the testimony was supplemented by the admissible testimony from Officer Hloucal.
Limiting Instruction: The district court ruled that some evidence of uncharged domestic violence would be admissible thus they determined that a limiting instruction was appropriate. The record also showed that defense counsel failed to object to the instruction that Martin claimed as error. The district court has wide latitude in instructing the jury and since the instruction correctly stated the law the Court found no reversible error. In addition, the doctrine of invited error prohibited Martin from raising error on appeal as a result of his defense counsel stating he had no changes or corrections after reviewing the instruction. The argument provided by Martin was only speculative about how he may have been prejudiced which was insufficient to establish prejudice or reversible error.
Expert Testimony: After an extensive review of the record, the Court agreed the testimony given by Dr. Buckwell was inappropriate and not presented to merely establish the facts she relied upon in evaluating Martin’s mental status. Although troubled by the testimony, the Court stated any error was harmless because the Court felt the jury considered all the expert testimony presented at trial and was instructed that it was not required to accept any expert’s opinion as conclusive.

Holding: The Court stated that while errors were made in the trial of the case, a review of the complete record convinced them that Martin received a fair trial and the verdict would remain unchanged had the errors not occurred.


J. Hill delivered the decision.

C.J. Voigt, dissent:
He expressed his concern that there were too many errors for the Court to know that Martin received a fair trial including: problems with the two defense theories presented by Martin; the district court’s limiting instruction concerning the uncharged misconduct evidence that ignored Gleason v. State; Officer White’s hearsay testimony that was admitted to prove that Martin specifically intended to kill his wife; and Dr. Buckwell’s testimony that Martin acted with specific intent to kill that was inadmissible.

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