Friday, June 29, 2012

Summary 2012 WY 82

Summary of Decision June 14, 2012

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

Case Name: Jones v. State of Wyo.

Citation: 2012 WY 82

Docket Number: S-11-0073

Appeal from the District Court of Laramie County, The Honorable Peter G. Arnold, Judge

Representing Appellant (Defendant): Diane Lozano*, State Public Defender; Tina N. Olson*, Appellate Counsel; Kirk A. Morgan*; and Janae E. Ruppert, of Woodhouse Roden, LLC. Argument by Ms. Ruppert.

Representing Appellee (Plaintiff): Gregory A. Phillips, Wyoming Attorney General; Terry L. Armitage; Deputy Attorney General; D. Michael Pauling, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Sean C. Chambers, Senior Assistant Attorney General; and John Guyton Knepper, Senior Assistant Attorney General. Argument by Mr. Knepper.

Date of Decision: June 14, 2012

Facts: Appellant robbed and killed the victim during a party. Appellant was charged with one count of first-degree murder, one count of aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon, and one count of conspiracy to commit robbery. Appellant entered a plea of not guilty to each count and trial was set. The district court then began to act upon a series of motions, including the granting of Appellant’s motion for a new attorney and a subsequent motion for continuance. At trial, the State dismissed the conspiracy to commit robbery charge. The jury found Appellant guilty of murder in the first-degree and aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon. Appellant was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Issues: 1) Whether it was plain error for the district court to omit the intent element from the jury instruction defining robbery which caused prejudice to Appellant; 2) Whether the evidence at trial was insufficient to sustain a conviction of robbery; and 3) Whether Appellant was denied his right to a fair trial due to the cumulative effect of four acts of prosecutorial misconduct.

Holdings: As to the first issue of alleged error, the Court found the judge never attempted to define “reasonable doubt,” and furthermore the jury is presumed to have followed the instructions actually given to them, which correctly placed the proper burden upon the prosecution to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt

As to the second claim, The Court agreed with the State that Appellant’s argument relied on selected portions of the prosecutor’s comments which, out of context, suggest a different meaning conveyed when looking at the same comments in context. Moreover, the Court found that any impropriety was corrected by the district court’s instruction to the jury regarding the presumption of innocence, an instruction not contested by the defense.

As to the third claim, The Court found no impropriety where the prosecutor never mentioned any particular witness by name, never suggested any witness was more credible than another, and never asked the jury to sympathize with any witness.

The Court concluded that there was no prejudice to Appellant from the jury instructions, that the evidence at trial was sufficient to sustain a conviction of robbery, and that Appellant was not denied his right to a fair trial due to the cumulative effect of any alleged prosecutorial misconduct that may have occurred. Affirmed.

J. Hill delivered the opinion for the court.

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