Justia Wyoming Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s denial of Appellant’s petition for post-conviction relief, holding that res judicata barred Appellant’s claims. In his petition for post-conviction relief, Appellant challenged the same convictions and sentences he challenged in an earlier motion to correct an illegal sentence, and on the same grounds - double jeopardy. The district court found that Appellant’s claims were barred by res judicata. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Appellant failed to present the Court with good cause to avoid an application of the doctrine of res judicata under the facts of this case, and therefore, Appellant’s claims were appropriately barred. View "Goetzel v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Unemployment Insurance Commission denying Appellant’s application for unemployment insurance after the City of Gillette terminated her employment, holding that there was substantial evidence to support the Commission’s determination that Appellant engaged in misconduct with her work and that the City did not violate Appellant’s First Amendment rights when it terminated her employment. The Commission denied Appellant’s claim for benefits after concluding that the City discharged Appellant because she violated several employer policies when she provided certain work-related confidential information to persons authorized to see that information. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Commission had substantial evidence to conclude that Appellant committed misconduct connected with her work; and (2) the City did not infringe on Appellant’s First Amendment rights when it dismissed her for constitutionally protected speech. View "Mahoney v. City of Gillette" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of delivery of a controlled substance, holding that Defendant’s failure to file a pretrial motion to suppress identification evidence precluded this Court’s review of Defendant’s due process claim. On appeal, Defendant argued that his right to due process was violated when the district court admitted into evidence a witness identification that was based on a single photo, rather than a photo array. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment, holding (1) a defendant’s failure to assert an objection or defense through a pretrial motion required by Wyo. R. Crim. P. 12(b)(3) is a bar to appellate review of a due process claim unless good cause is shown for the defendant’s failure to make the required finding; and (2) because Defendant did not file required motion to suppress the identification evidence against him required by Rule 12(b)(3) and did not show good cause for that failure, Defendant waived appellate review of his claim. View "Rodriguez v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Appellant's convictions, holding that the record did not show a factual basis for Appellant's guilty plea as to counts two through eleven, and therefore, Appellant was prejudiced by her trial counsel’s deficient performance in advising her to plead guilty to ten felony counts under Wyo. Stat. Ann. 42-4-111(a) without a factual basis to satisfy the felony threshold. Appellant pled guilty to one felony count of Medicaid fraud related to improper record-keeping, ten felony counts of Medicaid fraud for making false or misleading statements in Medicaid claims when the value of the medical assistance is $500 or more, and two counts of felony forgery. Appellant filed a Wyo. R. App. P. 21(a) motion to withdraw her pleas due to ineffective assistance, arguing that the State unlawfully charged her with counts two through eleven and that her trial counsel provided ineffective assistance because he did not challenge those charges. Instead, trial counsel advised Appellant to accept a plea agreement under which Appellant pled guilty to all charges. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that there was no factual basis for Appellant’s guilty plea as to the ten felony counts, and trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by advising Appellant to accept the plea agreement. View "Mellott v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of three controlled substance charges, holding that the district court did not err by denying Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence discovered during a search of Defendant’s vehicle. On appeal, Defendant argued that a law enforcement officer violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment when he detained Defendant for a dog sniff and searched Defendant’s pickup truck without a warrant. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the officer’s initial stop of Defendant was justified because he was speeding; (2) the officer had reasonable, articulable suspicion that Defendant was engaged in drug crimes, justifying his further detention; and (3) the automobile exception to the warrant requirement applied to Defendant’s pickup. View "Pier v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of one count of first degree sexual assault of minor, holding that the district court erred in providing an ex parte response to a juror’s note, but the error was harmless, and that Defendant received effective assistance of counsel. Specifically, the Court held (1) the district court erred when it responded to a juror note expressing confusion over DNA testimony without informing either party of the juror note and the court’s response to it, but the error was harmless; and (2) Defendant did not receive ineffective assistance of counsel based on an alleged conflict or interest or on counsel’s purported failure to adequately pursue a theory of intentional secondary DNA transfer. View "Wall v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction of felony possession of a controlled substance, holding that the district court did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained during a law enforcement officer’s search of Defendant’s vehicle. Defendant entered a conditional no contest plea to possession of a controlled substance. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court erred in failing to suppress evidence obtained during what he characterized as an unreasonable search. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant waived his right to argue on appeal that the officer conducted an unlawful search when he leaned through the passenger window of the car and smelled marijuana; and (2) under the totality of the circumstances, the officers’ actions were objectively reasonable, and the search did not violate Defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights. View "Ray v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court denying Defendant’s motion to suppress her statements to highway patrol troopers and the marijuana they subsequently found in her car, holding that the record supported the district court’s finding that Defendant’s statements to the troopers were not coerced and the conclusion that the troopers did not violate Defendant’s due process rights. Defendant was the passenger in a car that was stopped for speeding. In response to questioning by the troopers, Defendant admitted to possessing medical marijuana that was located in the back of the car. After a search, the the troopers discovered marijuana. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the troopers’ detention and questioning of Defendant after the traffic stop was not unreasonable under the circumstances; and (2) Defendant gave her statements to the troopers voluntarily and and without coercion. View "Rodriguez v. State" on Justia Law

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Defendant’s conviction of felony possession of marijuana, holding that Defendant did not demonstrate plain error when a supervisor from the state crime lab testified in place of the lab analyst who tested and weighed the marijuana. On appeal, Defendant argued that the State’s admission of the lab report containing the lab analyst’s conclusions violated his right to confrontation because the supervisor testified in place of the analyst. The Supreme Court affirmed without addressing the confrontation issues, holding that, even if the admission violated the confrontation clause, Defendant was not prejudiced. View "Lewis v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed convictions of Defendants - Dennis Larkins and Emily Larkins - for multiple counts of child abuse and one count of abuse of a vulnerable adult, holding that there was no reversible error in the proceedings below. Specifically, the Court held (1) the State presented sufficient evidence to support the convictions; (2) the district court did not err when it denied Defendants’ motion for new trial based on ineffective assistance of counsel; and (3) while some of the prosecutor’s statements during closing argument amounted to misconduct, the misconduct did not materially prejudice either Defendant. View "Larkins v. State" on Justia Law