Leners v. State

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
Citation2022 WY 127
Docket NumberS-22-0093
PartiesTIMOTHY DEAN LENERS, Appellant (Defendant), v. THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Plaintiff).
Decision Date11 October 2022

2022 WY 127

TIMOTHY DEAN LENERS, Appellant (Defendant),

THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Plaintiff).

No. S-22-0093

Supreme Court of Wyoming

October 11, 2022

Appeal from the District Court of Laramie County The Honorable Steven K. Sharpe, Judge

Representing Appellant:

Timothy Dean Leners, pro se.

Representing Appellee:

Bridget Hill, Wyoming Attorney General; Jenny L. Craig, Deputy Attorney General; Joshua C. Eames [*] , Senior Assistant Attorney General; Samuel Williams, Senior Assistant Attorney General.



[¶1] A jury convicted Timothy Leners of attempted second-degree murder, and he was sentenced to between twenty-five and thirty-five years in prison. We affirmed his conviction and the denial of his motion for a new trial based on ineffective assistance of counsel in Leners v. State, 2021 WY 67, ¶ 13, 486 P.3d 1013, 1017 (Wyo. 2021), cert. denied, ___ U.S.___, 142 S.Ct. 410, 211 L.Ed.2d 220 (2021). He then filed a pro se motion for a sentence reduction under W.R.Cr.P. 35(b) which the district court denied. He timely appeals, claiming the district court's denial was based on bias and was an abuse of discretion. We affirm.


[¶2] Mr. Leners proposes seven grounds for reversal. We consolidate the issues to two:

1. Did the district court violate Mr. Leners' right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution when it denied Mr. Leners' motion for a sentence reduction
2. Did the district court abuse its discretion when denying Mr. Leners' motion for sentence reduction


[¶3] The facts leading to Mr. Leners' conviction are fully set out in Leners v. State. In summary:

On December 23, 2017, Timothy Leners packed his belongings in Walmart bags, left his wife and four children, and drove from Fremont, Nebraska, to Cheyenne, Wyoming. In the early morning hours that day, his "soulmate," Joyce Trout, [had] invited him to the apartment where she lived with her husband, Chris Trout, and her nine-year-old daughter.
Mr. Leners arrived in Cheyenne in the late afternoon. He planned to oust Mr. Trout from the apartment, move in, and begin life anew with Mrs. Trout. The reunion did not go as planned. By the end of the day, Mr. Leners had shot Mr. Trout in the center of his chest. Mr. Leners, charged with attempted second-degree murder, claimed he shot in self-defense.

Leners, ¶¶ 3-4, 486 P.3d at 1015 (footnote omitted). After a four-day trial, the jury rejected Mr. Leners' claim of self-defense and found him guilty.

[¶4] Prior to his sentencing hearing, the district court received a presentencing investigation report (PSI).[1] The report contained a written statement from Mr. Leners in which he set forth his version of the altercation and maintained that he lawfully defended himself. He detailed his status as a disabled veteran, firefighter, husband, and father of a young family. The PSI report noted that Mr. Leners did not have any prior convictions and that he scored low in his recidivism assessment.

[¶5] At the hearing, Mr. Leners' counsel read a letter from Mr. Leners' wife stating Mr. Leners was a loving husband and father and that the family relied on his disability benefits as its only source of income. She also described Mr. Leners' service in the military and as a firefighter trainer. She noted Mr. Leners' mental and physical health complications and implored the district court to allow Mr. Leners to remain in the community with his family. Mr. Leners' counsel then highlighted Mr. Leners' military service, his disabilities, and his low risk of recidivism.

[¶6] Mr. Leners also spoke. He asserted he acted in self-defense and requested probation. He explained his impeccable behavior while on bond, described his long history of volunteer work with veterans, and spoke about his training of 8,000 firefighters. He told the district court that his family depended on him and his benefits for income.

[¶7] In its oral sentence, the district court noted that it heard the entire trial. It summarized the circumstances of the charge against Mr. Leners and Mr. Leners' role in the altercation. The district court reviewed the aggravating factors it relied on in determining Mr. Leners' sentence-the violent nature of the crime and the serious injury to the victim. The court acknowledged mitigating factors including Mr. Leners' lack of criminal history, his service to the country, and the absence of substance abuse. After balancing these factors, the district court sentenced Mr. Leners to between twenty-five and thirty-five years in prison. Leners, ¶¶ 5, 13, 486 P.3d at 1017. The penalty for attempted second degree murder is not less than twenty (20) years and up to life imprisonment. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-2-104; Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-1-301; Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-1-304.


[¶8] On January 26, 2022, Mr. Leners timely filed a Rule 35(b) motion for reduction of sentence. The motion, including attachments, consists of eighty-four pages. It raises seven grounds for relief and includes the following:

Exhibit A. Mr. Leners' "plea and statement of cause for sentence reduction" which includes an expression of his wish to read this statement out loud at a hearing on the motion. His statement emphasizes his otherwise crime-free life, his charitable activities, and his family's need for his presence in the household. He points to facts that, in his view, prove his innocence and details the physical and mental risks to his health from being imprisoned while disabled;
Exhibit B. A "self-initiative, education and achievements progress report" authored by Mr. Leners which describes his "lifetime achievements and service to date" and catalogues "illegal" prison conditions;
Exhibit C. An affidavit by Marcia Kline, Mr. Leners' mother-in-law, citing her experience as a former corrections officer and her long acquaintance with Mr. Leners. She attests that Mr. Leners will not live through his sentence considering his disabilities and that she had never known him to use a weapon against anyone in her thirty-one-year association with him. She states, the shooting of Mr. Trout was in self-defense, and Mr. Leners received ineffective assistance of counsel;
Exhibit D. An affidavit by Mr. Leners' wife, Kathrine Leners, attesting to his crime-free life and his history of assisting their community which continued while he was released on bond. She describes his disabilities and the improper physical and mental treatment he is receiving in prison. She states, that after carefully reviewing the evidence at trial, she believes he is factually innocent. She discusses his support system should he come home and asserts that the family will not survive if he remains in prison;
Exhibits E, F, G and H. A letter Mr. Leners sent to the director of the Wyoming Department of Corrections outlining recommendations for a veteran-specific program. A letter from the director of the Wyoming Department of Corrections thanking Mr. Leners for his suggestions. Two other letters written by Mr. Leners to the director of the Wyoming Department of Corrections, one with suggestions for decreasing incidents of inmates exerting authority over other inmates, and the other with recommendations for increased COVID-19 safety measures;
Exhibit I. Newspaper articles covering Mr. Leners' work training firefighters on new equipment at various locations;
Exhibit J. Mr. Leners' certificate of honorable discharge from the United States Marine Corps;
Exhibit K. A letter from the Department of Veterans Affairs finding Mr. Leners permanently disabled, and a letter from the Social Security Administration affirming that Mr. Leners has "ischemic heart disease, degenerative disc disease, major depression, mood disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder";
Exhibit L. A certification that Mr. Leners earned an associate of applied science degree from Southeast Community College accompanied by documentation that he qualified for the dean's list during his semesters of attendance.

[¶9] On January 31, 2022, the district court denied Mr. Leners' Rule 35(b) motion for sentence reduction stating:

At the time of the sentencing hearing, this court carefully reviewed all of the aggravating and mitigating circumstances of this case. The court found that a sentence of probation was not an appropriate sentence given the violent nature of the crime and the fact that the victim sustained a serious gunshot injury. The court also appropriately considered the mitigating factors that the Defendant again raises and sentenced the Defendant in the lower end of the applicable statutory range.

[¶10] On February 16, 2022, Mr. Leners filed a Notice of Intent to Appeal the denial of his motion for sentence reduction and seeking to proceed in forma pauperis. He also requested appointment of counsel. On February 22, 2022, the district court denied his request for court appointed counsel. It determined the postconviction appeal of a motion for a reduced sentence was not a critical stage in Mr. Leners' criminal case and that the "Defendant is fully capable of arguing the merits of his Rule 35 motion without the need for court-appointed counsel." The order denying the appointment of counsel did not address Mr. Leners' motion to proceed in forma pauperis. On March 2, 2022, the clerk of the district court sent Mr. Leners a letter directing him to pay a $240 filing fee. Mr. Leners responded with a Motion to Correct First Judicial District Court's Erroneous Attempt to Collect Filing Fee. On March 30, 2022, the district court issued an Order Clarifying Defendant Should Be Allowed to Proceed Without Filing Fees. The fee was reimbursed.[2]


I. Mr. Leners' due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United...

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1 cases
  • Harper v. State
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • May 24, 2023
    ...appeal." Mack v. State, 7 P.3d 899, 900 (Wyo. 2000) (citing Smith v. State, 969 P.2d 1136, 1138 (Wyo. 1998)); see also Leners v. State, 2022 WY 127, ¶ 28, 518 P.3d 686, 696 (Wyo. 2022) (quoting Silva v. State, 2014 WY 155, ¶ 10, 338 P.3d 934, 937 (Wyo. 2014)). The narrow function of Rule 35......

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