Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Summary 2008 WY 118

Summary of Decision issued October 8, 2008

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

Case Name: Granzer v. State

Citation: 2008 WY 118

Docket Number: S-08-0010

Appeal from the District Court of Campbell County, the Honorable Michael N. Deegan, Judge.

Representing Appellant Bush: Diane M. Lozano, State Public Defender, PDP; Tina N. Kerin, Appellate Counsel; David E. Westling, Senior Appellate Counsel.

Representing Appellee State: Bruce A. Salzburg, Wyoming Attorney General; Terry L. Armitage, Deputy Attorney General; Leda Pojman, Assistant Attorney General; Jenny Lynn Craig, Assistant Attorney General.

Appellant Granzer challenged her conviction for endangering a child by knowingly and willfully allowing her to enter and remain in a dwelling where she knew methamphetamine was stored. She argued that the jury was not instructed properly on the “enter” element and that there was insufficient evidence that methamphetamine was stored in the dwelling.

Jury Instructions:
The Court has stated that the trial court commits a fundamental error and reversal is required when it fails to give an instruction on an essential element of a criminal offense. In Neder v. United States, the United States Supreme Court ruled that an error in failing to instruct the jury on an essential element of an offense is not part of the limited class of fundamental constitutional errors so intrinsically harmful as to require automatic reversal without regard to their effect on the outcome. Instructional errors that are preserved at trial warrant analysis under the harmless constitutional error standard described in Chapman v. California. Based upon the federal cases and Large v. State, the Court concluded that a trial court’s failure to instruct on an element of a crime is not structural or fundamental error but rather a trial error. The State conceded that the district court violated a clear and unequivocal rule of law by failing to instruct the jury that the prosecution was required to prove Granzer permitted a child to enter and remain in the dwelling. The instructional error clearly appears in the record. The failure to instruct was not reversible if the element was not contested. The record showed there were inconsistent statements. Given the disputed evidence, Granzer was materially prejudiced by the instructional error and was entitled to a new trial.
Sufficiency of the Evidence:
Although the Court reversed on the jury instruction issue, they also considered the sufficiency of the evidence issue because if it was insufficient as a matter of law, Granzer was entitled to be acquitted on the charge and the State would not be able re-try her. The Court was not persuaded by Granzer’s argument that the evidence established that the methamphetamine located in the house was obviously for her use, not storage. The Court noted that the jury could have inferred from the evidence that methamphetamine was stored in the trailer.

Holding: The trial court erred when it failed to instruct the jury on the “enter’ element of the crime. The Court concluded the instructional violation rose to the level of plain error because the evidence on the “enter” element was disputed; consequently, Granzer suffered material prejudice. The State presented sufficient evidence to establish the “store” element of the crime.

Reversed and remanded.

J. Kite delivered the decision.

C.J. Voigt dissented, J. Golden joined: Even though he agreed with the majority that reversal should flow from the instructional error, he also would reverse on the issue of the sufficiency of the evidence. The failure of the district court adequately to instruct the jury as to the elements of the offense charged was exacerbated by the dearth of evidence that the appellant “stored” methamphetamine in the home at a time that she allowed the child to enter and remain in the home. The dissent stated the State did not prove the confluence of actus reus and mens rea.


[SPECIAL NOTE: This opinion uses the "Universal Citation." It was given an "official" citation when it was issued. You should use this citation whenever you cite the opinion, with a P.3d parallel citation. Please note when you look at the opinion that all of the paragraphs are numbered. When you pinpoint cite to a quote, you should cite to this paragraph number rather than to any page number. If you need assistance in putting together a citation using the Universal Citation form, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library.]

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