Castellanos v. State, S–15–0029.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
Citation366 P.3d 1279
Docket NumberNo. S–15–0029.,S–15–0029.
Parties Nathaniel CASTELLANOS, Appellant (Defendant), v. The STATE of Wyoming, Appellee (Plaintiff).
Decision Date26 January 2016

366 P.3d 1279

Nathaniel CASTELLANOS, Appellant (Defendant),
The STATE of Wyoming, Appellee (Plaintiff).

No. S–15–0029.

Supreme Court of Wyoming.

Jan. 26, 2016.

366 P.3d 1283

Representing Appellant: Office of the State Public Defender: Diane Lozano, Wyoming Public Defender; Tina N. Olson* , Chief Appellate Counsel; and Elizabeth B. Lance of Woodhouse Roden Nethercott, LLC, Cheyenne, WY. Argument by Ms. Lance.

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

366 P.3d 1284

Before BURKE, C.J., and HILL, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ., and PERRY, D.J.

HILL, Justice.

¶ 1] Nathaniel Castellanos was arrested on August 23, 2011, and charged with two counts of first degree murder and one count of attempted first degree murder in connection with the shooting of three persons in his home. He was arraigned on October 3, 2011, and his jury trial began on February 18, 2014—910 days after his arrest and 869 days after his arraignment. The jury returned a guilty verdict on all three charges but declined to impose the death penalty. The district court thereafter sentenced Mr. Castellanos to three consecutive sentences of life without the possibility of parole.

[¶ 2] On appeal, Mr. Castellanos claims a violation of his right to a speedy trial under Wyoming Rule of Criminal Procedure 48 and the United States Constitution. He also claims ineffective assistance of counsel and error in the jury selection process. We affirm.


[¶ 3] Mr. Castellanos states the issues on appeal as follows:

I. Was Mr. Castellanos denied his right to a speedy trial in violation of both the Wyoming and United States Constitutions and W.R.Cr.P. 48 ?

II. Was Mr. Castellanos denied the effective assistance of counsel by his first appointed counsel?

III. Did the trial court abuse its discretion when it denied Mr. Castellanos' challenges for cause against two jurors?


I. Events Leading to the Arrest of Mr. Castellanos

[¶ 4] On August 23, 2011, Mr. Castellanos decided to take a few days leave from his employment to deal with the stress he was experiencing from a break-up with his fiancé that afternoon and from child custody disputes he was having with his ex-wife. That evening, he sent text messages to his friend Megan McIntosh inviting her for a beer and to play poker at Mingles Bar in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The two exchanged text messages in which Ms. McIntosh told Mr. Castellanos that she now had a boyfriend and probably could not make it to the bar in time for the poker game. Mr. Castellanos replied that she should bring her boyfriend and they could just have a drink.

[¶ 5] At around 8:00 to 8:30 that evening, Ms. McIntosh went to Mingles Bar with her boyfriend, Corey Walker, and her roommate, Amber McGuire. When they arrived at Mingles, they got their drinks and sat at a table. Ms. McIntosh then approached Mr. Castellanos at the bar where he was seated. She talked with him for a bit and then the two returned to the table, where Mr. Castellanos introduced himself to Mr. Walker and Ms. McGuire. After visiting for a while, the four decided to leave the bar and go to Mr. Castellanos' home.

[¶ 6] At Mr. Castellanos' home, the four sat on his patio and had drinks. At some point, Mr. Castellanos asked if any of them knew where they could get some marijuana, and Ms. McGuire said she knew of someone who might be able to sell them some. Ms. McGuire made arrangements to meet that person at King Soopers, and the four got in Mr. Walker's car. On the way to King Soopers, Ms. McGuire became concerned with the way Mr. Castellanos was acting because he kept asking about the person they were meeting and he wanted to personally meet him. Ms. McGuire was concerned that Mr. Castellanos might be an informant so she called off the meeting.

[¶ 7] The four returned to Mr. Castellanos' home, and Ms. McGuire, Ms. McIntosh, and Mr. Walker went upstairs into the dining room/kitchen area. Mr. Castellanos then came running up the stairs, entered the dining room/kitchen area, and shot Mr. Walker. Mr. Castellanos next turned to Ms. McIntosh and yelled, "You stupid lying bitch. How could you do this to me[?] Don't you love me?" Ms. McIntosh was crying and trying to tell Mr. Castellanos to call 911. She crouched down and held a hand over her head, and Mr. Castellanos shot her. Mr.

[366 P.3d 1285

Castellanos then turned to Ms. McGuire, and she asked, "How could you do this to us?" Mr. Castellanos replied, "Because somebody's got to do it," and then he shot Ms. McGuire.

¶ 8] At approximately 10:47 that evening, a neighbor of Mr. Castellanos called 911 because she had heard the shots fired in Mr. Castellanos' home. The neighbor reported that she heard one shot followed by screaming and then two more shots. Officer Matthew Colson of the Cheyenne Police Department was the first to respond to the reported shots and arrived at the scene at 10:51 p.m. He first drove slowly through the neighborhood with his headlights off and then parked and began to walk the neighborhood on foot. Officer James Eddy arrived at 10:58 p.m. while Officer Colson was walking the neighborhood.

[¶ 9] When Officer Eddy got out of his vehicle, both officers heard another gunshot from inside Mr. Castellanos' home. The officers approached the house, with Officer Colson staying in a position to maintain a line of sight with the front of the house, and Officer Eddy working his way to the back of the house. As Officer Eddy approached the back of the house, he could see Mr. Castellanos standing in front of the kitchen window behaving in what appeared to be a calm manner. Officer Eddy watched Mr. Castellanos for a moment and then illuminated his flashlight and made verbal contact with him. Officer Eddy ordered Mr. Castellanos to exit the house with his hands raised, and Mr. Castellanos complied. As Officer Eddy handcuffed Mr. Castellanos, Mr. Castellanos told him that the man who did the shooting had run out the front door. When Officer Eddy told him no one came out the front door, Mr. Castellanos told him the shooter must have run downstairs.

[¶ 10] When additional officers arrived, a search of Mr. Castellanos' entire residence was conducted. Officers found the three victims but no other persons were found in the home. Officers also found a wet handgun on the kitchen counter next to a wet paper towel with blood on it. Mr. Castellanos told the investigating detective that the handgun was his and that he had tried to clean the weapon and his own hands after wrestling the gun away from the shooter.

[¶ 11] Mr. Walker and Ms. McIntosh each suffered a single gunshot wound to the forehead and died from their injuries. Ms. McGuire suffered two gunshot wounds to the head and survived her injuries.

[¶ 12] Mr. Castellanos was taken into custody on August 23, 2011, and a warrant for his arrest was issued on August 26, 2011. On August 26, 2011, the State filed an information charging Mr. Castellanos with two counts of first degree murder and one count of attempted first degree murder. The proceedings following Mr. Castellanos' arrest were prolonged, and because Mr. Castellanos has asserted a violation of his right to a speedy trial, we must set forth those proceedings and their dates in some detail.1

II. Proceedings Following the Arrest of Mr. Castellanos

A. Preliminary Hearing, Arraignment and State's Death Penalty Election

[¶ 13] On August 26, 2011, the circuit court issued a notice of setting that scheduled Mr. Castellanos' preliminary hearing for September 1, 2011. On August 31, 2011, Mr. Castellanos filed a Waiver of Speedy Preliminary Hearing and moved to continue the preliminary hearing. The preliminary hearing was continued to September 8, 2011, and following that hearing, Mr. Castellanos was bound over to the district court.

[¶ 14] On September 16, 2011, the district court, the Honorable Peter G. Arnold presiding, issued an order setting Mr. Castellanos' arraignment for September 26, 2011. On September 22, 2011, Mr. Castellanos requested a re-setting of the arraignment, and on that same date, the arraignment was continued to October 3, 2011. On October 3, 2011, the court held Mr. Castellanos' arraignment

[366 P.3d 1286

hearing and accepted his plea of not guilty to all charges. During that hearing, after Mr. Castellanos had entered his plea, defense counsel asked the court to continue the arraignment to allow for the filing of any motions required to be filed before arraignment. The court commented that Mr. Castellanos' plea had already been entered and accepted but granted the request and continued the arraignment to October 10, 2011. The arraignment then concluded on October 10, 2011.

¶ 15] On October 14, 2011, the district court entered an order setting October 31, 2011 as the State's deadline to elect whether to seek the death penalty. On October 25, 2011, Mr. Castellanos moved to extend that deadline to allow the defense an additional ninety days in which to submit information that might dissuade the State from seeking the death penalty. On October 26, 2011, the court held a hearing on the defense motion. During that hearing, the court asked whether defense counsel would concede that the delay caused by the extension would be...

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