Court Summaries, 0820 WYBJ, Vol. 43 No. 4. 46

AuthorAnna Reeves Olson Park Street Law Offices Casper, Wyoming
PositionVol. 43 4 Pg. 46

Court Summaries

No. Vol. 43 No. 4 Pg. 46

Wyoming Bar Journal

August, 2020

Anna Reeves Olson Park Street Law Offices Casper, Wyoming

Diana Lozano v. Circuit Court of the Sixth Judicial District and Hon. Paul Phillips, Circuit Court Judge 2020 WY 44 S-19-0121 April 1, 2020

In May 2019, State Public Defender Diane Lozano notified the Sixth Judicial District Circuit Court that until further notice, the Public Defender was not available to take appointments to represent misdemeanor defendants due to an excessive caseload and shortage of attorneys.

Lozano explained that because of the staffing crisis, an indigent defendant’s right to counsel was jeopardized because a lawyer with an excessive workload could not provide competent or conflict-free representation.

Shortly thereafter, the circuit court entered orders appointing public defenders to represent misdemeanor defendants in two cases. When the Public Defender’s office declined the appointments, the court held Lozano in contempt

The Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari. The Court stated that W.S. § 7-6-104(a) provides that: “The public defender shall represent as counsel any needy person who is formally charged with having committed a serious crime if . . . the court, on its own motion or otherwise, orders appointment of counsel . . ..”

Further, W.S. § 7-6-105(b) provides “. . . If the person charged does not have an attorney and wishes one, the court shall notify an available public defender for the judicial district or shall appoint an attorney to represent the needy person if no public defender is available.”

Also, W.S. § 7-6-109(a) provides “[N]othing in this act shall prevent a court on its own motion or upon application by the state public defender . . ., from appointing an attorney other than the public defender to represent the defendant . . . .”

The Court held that although § 104(a)’s statement that “[t]he public defender shall represent as counsel any needy person,” it does not require the public defender to accept all court appointments. This is because § 105(b) contemplates that even before an appointment is made, a determination may have been made that the Public Defender is not available for an appointment. Specifically, § 105(b) permits the public defender to exercise its own discretion in its determination of its availability before representation is undertaken.

Therefore, the Circuit Court’s order mandating the Public Defender to accept the misdemeanor appointments was unlawful because it disregarded the Public Defender’s determination that no public defender was available. Because there was no lawful order, the Circuit Court could not properly find Lozano in contempt.

State of Wyoming v. Jason Tsosie John 2020 WY 46 S-19-0046 April 6, 2020

Jason T. John had a previous relationship with a woman named Melissa Hayden. After the relationship between John and Hayden ended, Hayden began a relationship with Wesley Willow. On August 3, 2018, Hayden, Willow, and another individual were celebrating Hayden’s birthday. At 3:42 a.m., John sent Hayden several text messages expressing his disgust about her relationship with Willow. The messages continued to escalate and Hayden ultimately told John to stop texting her. John did not stop and the texts and obscenities continued.

When Hayden showed Willow the text messages, Willow became angry and called John. After the call, Willow decided to go to John’s home to fight. Hayden and Willow then drove to John’s home. As they walked toward John’s home, they saw him standing in his front doorway holding an AR-15-style rifle. John and Willow shouted back and forth and John warned Willow to “get back.” Willow did not heed the warning and sprinted into John’s home. John fired nine shots in rapid succession killing Willow.

The State charged John with first degree murder. John pleaded not guilty at arraignment and filed a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to W.S. § 6- 2-602(f), which states: “A person who uses reasonable defensive force . . . shall not be criminally prosecuted for that use of reasonable defensive force.” The district court granted the motion to dismiss.

On appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed and held that W.S. § 6-2-602(f) was a mandatory, judicially-enforceable immunity provision. If an accused asserts protection from prosecution under subsection (f), the district court must determine whether the statutory immunity requirements have been met. The court then outlined the appropriate procedural framework for a W.S. § 6-2-602(f) self defense immunity determination, including the applicable burdens and standards of proof. Specifically, the accused must present a prima facie showing that § 6-2-602(f) applies. If the accused satisfies that burden, the burden shifts to the State to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that W.S. § 6-2-602(f) does not apply.

In this case, John was lawfully present in his home and was not the initial aggressor. The State also failed to meet its burden that W.S. § 6-2-602(f) did not apply. Therefore, the Supreme Court held that the district court properly granted John’s motion to dismiss

Tyler R. Kimzey v. Shelby K. Kimzey S-19-0194 2020 WY 52 April 22, 2020

Tyler R. Kimzey (Father) and Shelby K. Kimzey (Mother) divorced in 2017...

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