Epperson v. State, 5111

Decision Date04 October 1979
Docket NumberNo. 5111,5111
PartiesSteven Roy EPPERSON, Appellant (Defendant), v. The STATE of Wyoming, Appellee (Plaintiff).
CourtWyoming Supreme Court

Stephen R. Johnson, Asst. Public Defender, Sheridan, for appellant.

John D. Troughton, Atty. Gen., Gerald A. Stack, Deputy Atty. Gen., and Daniel E. White, Asst. Atty. Gen., Cheyenne, for appellee.


McCLINTOCK, Justice.

A jury found defendant guilty of unlawful conversion by a bailee, § 6-7-302, W.S.1977. The sole issue raised on appeal is whether the district court erred when it refused to admit a sales receipt into evidence. We find the rules of evidence require that the sales receipt be admitted, and therefore reverse and remand the case for a new trial.

Defendant, Steven Epperson, his wife, Dessa Epperson, and their four children had planned to take a trip to Yellowstone National Park on August 21, 1978. Kenneth Hope, a friend of the family and complaining witness, offered to lend his 35mm camera to the defendant to take with him. The defendant accepted Mr. Hope's offer. Although Epperson and his family returned from Yellowstone on August 27, 1978, he did not return the camera to Mr. Hope.

Mr. Hope testified that he had asked defendant to return the camera on several occasions but each time the defendant gave some excuse why he could not do so. Mr. Hope filed a complaint against defendant October 16, 1978.

Although defendant did not take the stand, his defense was that Hope had sold the camera to him. Defendant's wife testified that after defendant was taken into custody he had asked her to look for a sales receipt for the camera since he was incarcerated until the time of trial. Mrs. Epperson stated that she had had considerable difficulty locating the sales receipt because she and her husband had operated a drive-in that summer and as a result had a great number of "papers, receipts (and) daily tallies" that were "just thrown together in numerous bags and boxes." In fact, she did not locate the receipt until the day before trial. She found the receipt in a bag that had been put in a box containing Christmas decorations, when she and her children began decorating their Christmas tree.

The sales receipt is handwritten on a small piece of creased white paper and states:

"Recieved (sic) from S. Epperson payment in full for Pentax Camera."

It was signed by Mr. Hope.

Mrs. Epperson testified that she was familiar with her husband's handwriting and that the handwriting at the top of the receipt was her husband's. Mr. Hope testified that the signature at the bottom of the receipt was his but that he did not remember signing it. The trial judge refused to admit the receipt into evidence, stating that the receipt was not relevant because the defense was attempting to show that the complaining witness had signed it after he had consumed a large quantity of liquor and had had a memory lapse.

Epperson is charged with unlawful conversion by a bailee. Section 6-7-303, W.S.1977 provides:

"If any bailee by finding or otherwise, of any money, bank bill or note, or goods or chattels, shall convert the same to his or her own use, with intent to steal the same, he shall be deemed guilty of larceny, in the same manner as if the original taking had been felonious, and on conviction thereof, shall be punished accordingly."

To sustain a guilty verdict two elements must be present: (1) an expressed or implied relationship of trust between the parties, and (2) the accused must have converted the goods with an intent to steal. Wilbur v. Territory, 3 Wyo. 268, 21 P. 698, 699 (1889). The sales receipt was offered to prove that a trust relationship no longer existed between the defendant and Mr. Hope. We cannot agree with the basis of the trial judge's rejection; the sales receipt was relevant to the crime charged.

The real issue presented by this appeal is whether the document is admissible. Rule 402, W.R.E. provides that all relevant evidence is admissible unless it falls within one of the exceptions prescribed by the Rules of Evidence or other rules promulgated by the Supreme Court.

Rule 901, W.R.E. requires that before a document can be admitted into evidence it must be authenticated or...

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5 cases
  • Foster v. State, S-09-0056.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • January 28, 2010
    ...for a lay witness to testify to the genuineness of a person's handwriting, as described in W.R.E. 901(b)(2). See Epperson v. State, 600 P.2d 1051, 1053 (Wyo.1979) (finding, without much analysis, that a wife was sufficiently familiar with her husband's handwriting to be able to authenticate......
  • Monn v. State, 90-117
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • May 24, 1991
    ...a foundation laid to establish the facts or events of the prior statement, Mayer v. State, 618 P.2d 127 (Wyo.1980); Epperson v. State, 600 P.2d 1051 (Wyo.1979), or to provide the best evidence if substantive use was intended. Phillips, 597 P.2d 456. Somehow we disregard prior Wyoming case l......
  • Paden v. Paden, S-17-0077.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • October 4, 2017
    ...224 P.3d 1, 5 (Wyo. 2010) (lieutenant at jail familiar with inmate's handwriting sufficiently authenticated letter); Epperson v. State , 600 P.2d 1051, 1053 (Wyo. 1979) (wife's testimony that handwriting on top of receipt is husband's and seller's testimony that signature on the bottom is h......
  • Wells v. State, 5252
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • June 20, 1980
    ...is a requirement to establish a bailment in the context of the offense of unlawful conversion by bailee. Epperson v. State, Wyo.1979, 600 P.2d 1051, 1052. We hold that the appellant was properly charged with and convicted of the crime of grand Affirmed. ROSE, Justice, dissenting. The case p......
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