Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of theft, rendered after a jury trial. On appeal, Defendant argued that the prosecutor committed misconduct when he mentioned Defendant’s race during rebuttal closing arguments. Specifically, Defendant argued that, in doing so, the prosecutor attempted to appeal to the racial bias of the jury. The Supreme Court held (1) when the prosecutor commented on Defendant’s race, he was doing so in response to defense counsel’s suggestion that race was an issue; and (2) therefore, there was no prosecutorial misconduct committed in this case and no plain error committed by the trial court. View "Cole v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s denial of Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence collected pursuant to a search warrant, concluding that the police officer’s affidavit used to obtain the search warrant established probable cause sufficient to justify the issuance of the search warrant. Defendant entered a conditional guilty plea to charges of delivery of a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance. On appeal, Defendant argued that the affidavit was deficient, that the circuit court improperly issued the warrant, and that the search violated Defendant’s rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Wyo. Const. art. I, 4. The Supreme Court held that the affidavit established probable cause supporting the issuance of the search warrant. View "Fosen v. State" on Justia Law

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A jury found Defendant guilty of one count of aggravated assault and battery after he hit Sam Trujillo with his vehicle. The trial court sentenced Defendant to two to four years in prison. The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction, thus rejecting Defendant’s contention that his conviction should be reversed due to the ineffective assistance of counsel he received at trial. The court held that trial counsel was not ineffective in failing to request either an accident instruction or a defense of others jury instruction. View "Starr v. State" on Justia Law

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Appellants sued the town of Alpine, alleging claims stemming from Alpine’s financing and construction of a new sewage treatment facility. Appellants sought a declaration that Alpine’s loans for the new sewage treatment facility exceeded the town’s constitutional and statutory indebtedness limits. Appellant’s also asserted a claim for injunctive relief to stop Alpine from enforcing assessments and exactions for the new sewerage system on Appellants. A few years later, while the original case was proceeding, Appellants filed another action against Alpine and Nelson Engineering, claiming that Alpine and Nelson made false reports to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality that Appellants had violated the agency’s rules and regulations when they upgraded their septic systems. The district court granted Alpine’s motion to dismiss all claims against the town and granted Nelson’s motion for summary judgment on all claims against the engineering firm. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) Appellants sufficiently pled standing to pursue their declaratory judgment claim against Alpine; (2) the allegations supporting Appellants’ claim for injunctive relief against Alpine were legally sufficient; and (3) the district court’s respective orders on all the remaining claims in the two cases against Alpine and Nelson were not in error. View "Tavern, LLC v. Town of Alpine" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of second-degree sexual assault of a minor. The district court sentenced Defendant to imprisonment for six to ten years. Defendant moved for a new trial on the ground that his trial attorney was ineffective. The district court denied the motion after an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed the conviction and sentence, holding (1) Defendant’s attorney provided constitutionally effective assistance; and (2) the evidence was sufficient to allow rational jurors to reasonably conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant caused the victim to touch him for sexual arousal or gratification. View "Jones v. State" on Justia Law

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Defendant pled guilty to two counts of first degree murder and one count of larceny. Defendant was eighteen years old when he committed the crimes. At that time, the age of majority in Wyoming was nineteen. Defendant was sentenced to two consecutive sentences of life imprisonment on the murder counts. Defendant later filed a pro se motion to correct an illegal sentence under Wyo. R. Crim. P. 35, arguing that his life sentences violated the constitutional prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant’s sentence did not violate state law because the Eighth Amendment sentencing protections announced in Miller v. Alabama extend only to offenders under the age of eighteen. View "Nicodemus v. State" on Justia Law

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Appellant was convicted of first-degree felony murder, aggravated burglary, and conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary. After the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Miller v. Alabama and the Supreme Court’s decision in Bear Cloud v. State, the Supreme Court vacated Appellant’s sentences for resentencing on all counts. Upon resentencing, the court sentenced Appellant to an aggregate sentence will require him to serve at least thirty-five years before he becomes parole eligible. Appellant appealed, arguing that his aggregate sentence violates constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Appellant’s aggregate sentence is not a de facto sentence of life without the possibility of parole and does not violate the Eighth Amendment; and (2) Appellant’s aggravated burglary sentence of ten to twenty-five years is not grossly disproportionate or unconstitutional. View "Sen v. State" on Justia Law

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Defendant entered a conditional guilty plea to felony possession of methamphetamine. Defendant reserved the right to challenge the denial of his motion to suppress the warrantless pat-down search of his person. On appeal, Defendant argued that the pat-down search amounted to an illegal warrantless search because there were no exigent circumstances to necessitate such a search. The Supreme Court affirmed the denial of Defendant’s motion to suppress, holding that the district court did not err in concluding that, based upon the totality of the circumstances, law enforcement was justified in conducting a warrantless pat-down search for officer safety reasons. View "Sweets v. State" on Justia Law

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After Crook County Weed and Pest Control District applied herbicides to control leafy spurge found on property owned by Bush Land Development Company and Victoria Bush (collectively, Bush), many trees in the area of the spraying died. Bush filed this inverse condemnation action in the district court alleging that it was entitled to just compensation for the loss of its trees as a result of the District’s improper application of herbicides. The district court dismissed Bush’s claim, concluding that the action was not proper under the inverse condemnation statute. The Supreme Court affirmed on other grounds, concluding that the inverse condemnation was not properly before the district court because Bush failed to exhaust its administrative remedies before claiming inverse condemnation. View "Bush Land Development Co. v. Crook County Weed & Pest Control District" on Justia Law

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Defendant entered a conditional no contest plea to possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute. Defendant appealed, arguing that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress and finding that Defendant consented to continued detention when law enforcement told him “he was free to leave” but continued to have [its] red and blue emergency overhead lights activated. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the totality of the circumstances in this case, a reasonable person in Defendant’s position would have felt free to decline the law enforcement officer’s request, and therefore, the contact between the officer and Defendant was consensual. View "Tibbetts v. State" on Justia Law