Bruce v. State, S–14–0138.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
Citation346 P.3d 909,2015 WY 46
Docket NumberNo. S–14–0138.,S–14–0138.
PartiesShey Elan BRUCE, Appellant (Defendant), v. The STATE of Wyoming, Appellee (Plaintiff).
Decision Date26 March 2015

346 P.3d 909
2015 WY 46

Shey Elan BRUCE, Appellant (Defendant)
The STATE of Wyoming, Appellee (Plaintiff).

No. S–14–0138.

Supreme Court of Wyoming.

March 26, 2015.

346 P.3d 913

Representing Appellant: Office of the State Public Defender: Diane Lozano, State Public Defender; and Tina N. Olson, Chief Appellate Counsel. Argument by Ms. Olson.

Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney General; David L. Delicath, Deputy Attorney General; Jenny L. Craig, Senior Assistant Attorney General; and Mackenzie Williams, Senior Assistant Attorney General. Argument by Mr. Williams.

Before BURKE, C.J., and HILL, KITE, DAVIS, and FOX, JJ.


HILL, Justice.

¶ 1] A jury convicted Appellant Shey Bruce of manslaughter and battery of a household member. Mr. Bruce appeals his manslaughter conviction, claiming that the district court erred in denying his motion for judgment of acquittal in relation to the charge of second degree murder and his post-trial motion for judgment of acquittal in relation to the manslaughter conviction. He also alleges error in the district court's denial of his motion for new trial, its refusal to instruct the jury on his claim of self defense, and its admission of the deceased victim's 911 call. We affirm.


[¶ 2] Mr. Bruce states the issues on appeal as follows:

I. Did the trial court err in denying the motions for judgment of acquittal with regard to the charge of second degree murder and in denying the motion for judgment of acquittal, post-trial, of Appellant's conviction of manslaughter?
II. Did the trial court err in denying Appellant's motion for new trial, based upon undisclosed statements of the deceased, which the jury heard?
III. Did the trial court err in refusing to instruct the jury as to self-defense?
IV. Did the trial court err in admitting the 911 call made by the decedent?


[¶ 3] Charles Darrell Laster and Lavena Laster were originally married in 1996, divorced in 2004, remarried in 2007, and separated again, though not divorced, in 2010. In 2010, the Lasters were living in Shoshoni, Wyoming, and when they separated, Mrs. Laster moved to Mesa, Arizona. Mrs. Laster lived in Arizona until March 2013, when Mr. Laster bought her a bus ticket so she could return to Shoshoni. When Mrs. Laster returned to Shoshoni, she stayed with her daughter, Teri Hughes. Mr. and Mrs. Laster did not reunite, but they remained good friends.

[¶ 4] While living in Arizona, Mrs. Laster met and began dating Mr. Bruce. The two were still dating when Mrs. Laster returned to Shoshoni, and Mr. Bruce joined Mrs. Laster in Shoshoni about a month after her return. Mrs. Laster and Mr. Bruce initially stayed with Mrs. Laster's daughter, Teri Hughes, and then eventually moved into a one-bedroom home. Mrs. Laster and Mr. Bruce could not afford to rent the home, so Mrs. Laster asked Mr. Laster to rent the home for them, which he agreed to do. Mrs. Laster and Mr. Bruce did odd jobs around Mr. Laster's place to help work off the rent.

[¶ 5] On May 14, 2013, Mrs. Laster was at Mr. Laster's home drinking. She had been drinking for several days and described herself as a “blackout drinker.” At about 9:00 or 9:30 that morning, Mr. Bruce had coffee at the home of Mr. Laster's next door neighbor, Norman Hughes, who is also the father-in-law of Teri Hughes. Mr. Hughes reported that Mr. Bruce was intoxicated, and angry and distraught, because Mr. Laster had put his hand on Mrs. Laster's leg. Mr. Bruce spent the day at Mr. Hughes' home and went back and forth between the homes of Mr. Laster and Mr. Hughes several times throughout the day.

[¶ 6] At one point, Mr. Bruce told Mr. Hughes that he was going to return to Arizona and he had a check that Mr. Laster had given him to pay for his return trip. Mr. Bruce left Mr. Hughes' home at about 5:00 or 6:00 on the evening of May 14th, and Mr. Hughes described his departure:

[346 P.3d 914

Q. Tell us about that. Tell us about him leaving, if you would.
A. Well, like I said, I kept telling him, you're not going to get a bus ticket. The best thing you can do is, intoxicated, you can always go home and sleep it off. If you feel like you still want to leave in the morning, then by all means, do it.
Q. And did he leave?
A. Yes, he did.
Q. Tell us about that.
A. He got into Darrell's [Mr. Laster's] bright blue Mustang, spun gravel as he was leaving, and then he left.
¶ 7] At some point after Mr. Bruce left, Mrs. Laster looked outside Mr. Laster's home and saw that Mr. Laster's blue Mustang was gone. Mrs. Laster reported this to Mr. Laster, and in response, Mr. Laster loaded two rifles and two handguns. When Mrs. Laster asked Mr. Laster why he was preparing the firearms, Mr. Laster replied that he was “not going to take an ass whooping from a young man.”1 The Lasters placed the firearms in Mr. Laster's truck and drove over to the home that Mrs. Laster and Mr. Bruce shared. Once there, Mrs. Laster saw that the keys were in the Mustang, so she did not go in the home and instead got in the car and followed Mr. Laster back to his home.

[¶ 8] Upon their return to Mr. Laster's home, the Lasters carried the firearms into the home and into the back bedroom. Mr. Laster unloaded the firearms, leaving the ammunition in a pile on the floor. At some point, while the Lasters were in the back bedroom, Mr. Bruce entered the home and came to the back bedroom. Mr. Bruce had a beer bottle in his hand, and he and Mr. Laster talked about something that Mrs. Laster could not recall. Mr. Bruce then struck Mrs. Laster on the left side of her head with the beer bottle, rendering her unconscious.

[¶ 9] When Mrs. Laster awoke, Mr. Laster was on the telephone speaking to a 911 dispatcher. During Mr. Laster's conversation with the 911 dispatcher he reported that he needed medical assistance for his wife. Mr. Laster also reported to the 911 dispatcher that he also was hit a couple of times on the head with a beer bottle, that “Shay something” was the person who assaulted him, and that the assailant was no longer in the home.

[¶ 10] EMTs and a deputy sheriff responded to the call for emergency assistance. The deputy reported that both the Lasters were intoxicated, with slurred speech, but Mr. Laster was not at a “high level” of intoxication for him. Mrs. Laster was unwilling to speak with the sheriff's deputy, and when the deputy began to interview Mr. Laster, she told him not to tell the deputy anything. The deputy separated the Lasters, and Mr. Laster then cooperated and answered the deputy's questions, speaking with him for about ten or fifteen minutes. Mrs. Laster initially refused any medical treatment, but then when the deputy threatened to take her into protective custody, she agreed to be examined by the EMTs but refused transport to the hospital.

[¶ 11] Teri Hughes arrived at Mr. Laster's home about ten minutes after the sheriff's deputy. Ms. Hughes went to the home because she was worried about her mother (Mrs. Laster) and her stepfather (Mr. Laster). Ms. Hughes reported that she was worried because at about 10:30 that evening, Mr. Bruce had called her from the Fast Lane convenience store and asked her to pick him up. When Ms. Hughes arrived to pick up Mr. Bruce, he was upset, intoxicated, and had a beer in his hand. Mr. Bruce told Ms. Hughes that Mr. Laster hit him with a Maglite flashlight, and he had her feel the lump on the back of his head. Ms. Hughes testified:

Q. Okay. All right. So he's upset. He tells you that your dad hit him with a Maglite flashlight. Did you notice—did you notice anything else about him?
A. He had bloody knuckles.

[346 P.3d 915

Q. Okay. Do you remember if it was his right hand or his left hand?
A. No, I don't.
Q. Okay. Is he talking about anything else besides that at this point?
A. He says he's—I knew he was mad at my mom.
Q. Okay. How did you know he was mad at your mom?
A. Because she's over at my dad's.
Q. Okay. How do you know that?
A. Because he said.
Q. Okay. So did you just drop him off at his house?
A. No.
Q. Okay. Why not?
A. He wanted me to go inside.
Q. Why did you go inside with him if he was upset?
A. I thought I could calm him down.
Q. So what happens when you get inside?
A. He starts hollering about my mom and dad.
Q. What did he say?
A. He said that they—that they fucked him, and that he hurt them.
Q. Besides—in addition, did he say anything else besides that he had f'd them and he had hurt them?
A. He said that they got what they deserved.
Q. Okay. Did he say—did

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