Monday, October 07, 2013

Summary 2013 WY 118

Summary of Decision October 1, 2013

Chief Justice Kite delivered the opinion for the Court. Reversed and remanded.


Docket Number: S-11-0199


Appeal from the District Court of Fremont County the Honorable Norman E. Young, Judge

Representing Appellant: Thomas B. Jubin of Jubin & Zerga, LLC, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee: Gregory A. Phillips, Wyoming Attorney General; David L. Delicath, Deputy Attorney General; Theodore R. Racines, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Jeffrey Pope, Assistant Attorney General. Argument by Mr. Pope.

Date of Decision: October 1, 2013

Facts: After Gabriel R. Drennen appealed his convictions for first-degree murder and aggravated assault and battery, we remanded for a hearing on his assertion that defense counsel was ineffective. The district court found his trial counsels’ performance was deficient because they failed to present expert testimony in support of his self-defense claims. The court concluded, however, that Mr. Drennen was not prejudiced by the deficient performance.

Mr. Drennen argues on appeal that his convictions should be reversed because his trial was riddled with instances of prosecutorial misconduct, the district court improperly instructed the jury and he was prejudiced by his trial counsels’ deficient performance.

Issues: The issues in this case are: 1. Did the prosecutor engage in misconduct requiring the reversal of Mr. Drennen’s convictions? 2. Did the district court erroneously instruct the jury on self-defense with respect to the homicide charges? 3. Did the district court erroneously instruct the jury on self-defense with respect to the aggravated assault and battery charge? 4. Did the district court erroneously instruct the jury on the elements of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, and manslaughter? 5. Did the district court err in ruling on Mr. Drennen’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel?

Holdings/Conclusion: We conclude the prosecutors committed misconduct and Mr. Drennen is entitled to reversal of his convictions. Because we are reversing for a new trial, we address Mr.
Drennen’s claims regarding the jury instructions and find they are wanting in certain respects. We will not analyze the ineffective assistance of counsel arguments with any degree of specificity because we assume any deficiencies will be corrected on remand. We reverse Mr. Drennen’s convictions and remand to the district court for retrial, consistent with this opinion.

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

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