Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Summary 2011 WY 153

Summary of Decision November 8, 2011

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

Case Name: Tilley v. State

Citation: 2011 WY 153

Docket Number: S-11-0098, S-11-0099

URL: http://wyomcases.courts.state.wy.us/applications/oscn/DeliverDocument.asp?CiteID=464772

Appeal from the District Court of Big Horn County, Honorable Steven R. Cranfill, Judge

Representing Appellant (Defendant): James P. Castberg, Castberg Law Office, Sheridan, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee (Plaintiff): Gregory A. Phillips, Wyoming Attorney General; Terry L. Armitage, Deputy Attorney General; D. Michael Pauling, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Leda M. Pojman, Senior Assistant Attorney General.

Date of Decision: November 8, 2011

Facts: In these consolidated appeals, Appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to convict him of six counts of sexual assault committed years ago against four different victims and one count of aggravated burglary against one of the victims.

Issues: Whether the State present sufficient evidence at Appellant’s trial for the jury to find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of all sexual assault charges and of aggravated burglary.

Holdings: Appellant argues that, because the victims were unable to name a precise date for the crimes, the evidence was insufficient to convict him. However, where the specific date is not a requirement of the crime, alleging a general time period in lieu of a specific date is sufficient to give a defendant notice and allow him to adequately prepare a defense. This rule has largely been applied in child sexual assault cases because children cannot be expected to remember exact dates and times. In this case, all of the victims except one were minors at the time of the assaults; consequently, even if Appellant had challenged the sufficiency of the charging documents on the basis of indefiniteness of the date of the assaults, his challenge likely would not have been successful. In view of the fact that he also does not challenge the lack of specificity of the information charging him with sexual assault of the one victim, who was not a minor, and burglary of her residence, it need not be determined whether those charges were suitably precise or not.

Appellant also argues, in general, that the fact the crimes occurred so long ago and were not reported or prosecuted earlier should in and of itself have brought a serious question of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to the trier of fact – the jury. Wyoming has no statute of limitations on sexual assault, or any crimes, for that matter. Although the passage of time may make it more difficult for the State to prove its case, a lengthy period between commission of the crime and prosecution is by no means fatal to a conviction when the witnesses are credible and the evidence is sufficient. Those determinations are for the jury acting as the trier of fact.

The first victim’s testimony placed the sexual assault squarely within the period of time included in the elements instruction. The evidence was, therefore, sufficient as to the date of the sexual assault. Appellant also claims that the victim voluntarily “went with” him, indicating that she consented to the sexual act. The victim’s testimony, when viewed in the light most favorable to the State, controverts Appellant’s stance. She testified that he compelled her to perform oral sex upon him by using physical force. This evidence was sufficient to establish that the victim did not consent to the sexual act and Appellant inflicted sexual intrusion upon her through the application of physical force.

When the evidence is considered in the light most favorable to the State, the testimony corroborates the second victim’s claim that she had been assaulted by Appellant. A review of the record confirms that the jury could have reasonably concluded that in the summer of 1984 Appellant entered the victim’s residence without authority with intent to commit sexual assault and he inflicted sexual intrusion (intercourse) upon her through the actual application of physical force. The evidence was clearly sufficient to support Appellant’s convictions for aggravated burglary and first degree sexual assault of this victim.

The jury also convicted Appellant of first degree rape and immoral acts with a child involving victim number three and two counts of immoral acts with a child for incidents involving victim number four. Although Appellant argues generally that the victims’ testimony was imprecise as to the dates of the assaults, he does not examine the trial evidence and/or explain with specificity how it was inadequate. Thus, his vague allegations that the evidence as to the dates of the crimes was insufficient will not be addressed. The only other argument he makes is that these victims’ testimony was uncorroborated and, because he testified and specifically denied the charges, there was reasonable doubt as to his guilt. Wyo. Stat. 6-2-311 (2011) specifically states: “Corroboration of a victim’s testimony is not necessary to obtain a conviction for sexual assault.” It was the jurors’ task to weigh the evidence and determine whether they found the victims or Appellant more credible. The jury obviously accepted the victims’ testimony over Appellant’s and there is no basis to question its decision.


C.J. Kite delivered the opinion for the court.

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