Court Summaries, 0222 WYBJ, Vol. 45 No. 1. 38

AuthorAnna Reeves Olson
PositionVol. 45 1 Pg. 38

Court Summaries

Vol. 45 No. 1 Pg. 38

Wyoming Bar Journal

February, 2022

Anna Reeves Olson

Park Street Law Offices Casper, Wyoming

Jorge Omero Mendoza v. State of Wyoming


2021 WY 127

November 17, 2021

The State charged Jorge Mendoza with one count of aggravated assault and battery after an incident at a Rawlins restaurant. At the jury trial, witness Richard Oliver testified that he was washing dishes at the restaurant that night when Angel Roldan ran into the restaurant claiming a man "was chasing him with a knife[.]" Oliver looked out the window and saw Mendoza standing outside the restaurant, looking through the window at Roldan, running his thumb across his throat with a knife in his hand, "imitating a person's throat being cut[.]"Oliver called 911. When the police arrived, Oliver saw Mendoza throw the knife on the ground.

Mendoza requested that the jury be instructed on self-defense, which was done. However, the jury found Mendoza guilty of aggravated assault and battery. On appeal, Mendoza argued that the prosecutor committed misconduct at trial when she misstated the law of self-defense. The prosecutor stated in her closing argument: "During voir dire, I made an analogy of not bringing a knife to a gunfight. Based on the law that you have just been given, you also can't bring a gun to a fist fight." In her rebuttal argument: "You cannot bring a knife to a fist fight[.]"

Mendoza argued that this series of statements inaccurately represented to the jury that a defendant could never claim self-defense if he was armed with a drawn deadly weapon and his opponent was not. He asserts these statements "negated [his] self-defense claim[.]"

The Supreme Court held that these statements did not amount to prosecutorial misconduct because the prosecutor did not misstate the law. This is because the prosecutor was attempting to explain to the jury that the law did not permit Mendoza to use more force in self-defense than what was reasonably necessary under the circumstances. Where the deadly weapon to support the aggravated assault and battery charge was a knife, not a gun, the prosecutor could have more clearly explained reasonableness of force without referring to guns and gunfights. But the Court held that none of her statements, read in context, misstated the law of self-defense.

Dale L. Warner v. State of Wyoming


2021 WY 133

November 29,2021

Dale Warner, a minor, took guns and ammunition to Sage Valley Junior High School as part of a plan to shoot nine individuals. After his plan was thwarted, he was arrested and charged with nine counts of attempted first-degree murder. Warner's motion to transfer his case to juvenile court was denied. Warner appealed and the Supreme Court affirmed.

The Court noted that cases involving minors who are at least 14 years old and charged with a violent felony "may be originally commenced either in the juvenile court or in the district court___" If a minor's case is originally commenced in district court, then the minor may file a motion to have his case transferred to juvenile court. The determinative factors to be considered by the judge in deciding whether the case should be transferred are: (1) the seriousness of the alleged offense to the community; (2) whether the alleged offense was committed in an aggressive, violent, premeditated or willful manner; (3) whether the alleged offense was against persons or against property; (4) the desirability of trial and disposition of the entire offense in one court when the juvenile's associates in the alleged offense are adults who will be charged with a crime; (5) the sophistication and maturity of the juvenile; (6) the record and previous history of the juvenile; and (7) the prospects for a rehabilitation of the juvenile.

In this case, the Court held that the seven factors weighed against the transfer. Here, the nine counts of attempted first-degree murder were "extremely serious." The charged offenses were intended to be carried out in an aggressive, violent, premeditated, and willful manner. The...

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