Mares v. State, No. 95-296

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
Writing for the CourtBefore TAYLOR; LEHMAN
Citation939 P.2d 724
PartiesEdwin Ike MARES, Appellant (Defendant), v. The STATE of Wyoming, Appellee (Plaintiff).
Docket NumberNo. 95-296
Decision Date10 June 1997

Page 724

939 P.2d 724
Edwin Ike MARES, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
The STATE of Wyoming, Appellee (Plaintiff).
No. 95-296.
Supreme Court of Wyoming.
June 10, 1997.

Sylvia Lee Hackl, State Public Defender; and Deborah Cornia, Appellate Counsel, for Appellant. Argument by Ms. Cornia.

William U. Hill, Attorney General; Paul S. Rehurek, Deputy Attorney General; D. Michael Pauling, Senior Assistant Attorney General; and Georgia L. Tibbetts, Senior Assistant Attorney General, for Appellee. Argument by Ms. Tibbetts.

Before TAYLOR, C.J., and THOMAS, MACY, GOLDEN and LEHMAN, JJ.

LEHMAN, Justice.

Appellant, Edwin Ike Mares, appeals the judgment and sentence of the district court convicting him of felony murder, aggravated burglary, and conspiracy to commit burglary. Mares bases his appeal on what he perceives to be the unfair application of the felony murder rule as it currently exists in Wyoming, advocating that we judicially modify the statute. In the alternative, he argues that the sentence he received was constitutionally infirm under a proportionality analysis. We vacate Mares' sentence for the underlying felony of aggravated burglary. In all other respects, the district court's order of judgment and sentence is affirmed.

Mares presents the following issues for our review:

I. Whether the Appellant should have been convicted under the felony murder rule as he did not commit, cause,

Page 724

solicit or aid in the homicide; he had no reason to believe that a cohort would engage in conduct likely to cause serious bodily injury or death; he was not armed with a deadly weapon and he had no reason to believe one of his companions was armed with a deadly weapon.

II. Whether the Wyoming felony-murder doctrine denies the Appellant his due process rights pursuant to the United States and Wyoming Constitutions.

III. Did the trial court err when it imposed a sentence which was disproportionate to the sentences received by the co-defendants in this case, as well as other criminals convicted of the same offense in Wyoming?

The State phrases the issues as follows:

I. Was Appellant properly convicted of the crime of felony murder?

II. Are the sentences Appellant received unconstitutionally disproportionate?

FACTS

On November 30, 1993, Marie Bressler celebrated her 81st birthday by going to dinner with her two granddaughters. Bressler's long-time friend, 76-year-old Velma Filener, was visiting Bressler at the time but did not accompany the Bressler party to dinner. Bressler and her granddaughters left the house around 6:15 p.m. Approximately two hours later, Bressler returned to her unlocked and well-lit home and found the body of Filener lying between the laundry room and kitchen. Filener had been stabbed seventeen times, and her body had been dragged from a hallway near the entry of the home to the laundry room. The home obviously had been burglarized. The county coroner estimated Filener's time of death to be between 7:30 and 8:15 p.m.

Five months later, 16-year-old Heather Carrillo informed police and counselors at the Wyoming Girls' School that she was involved in the Bressler burglary. At Mares' trial, Carrillo testified that on November 30, 1993, she stole her mother's car and drove Victor Madrid to Bressler's home, where they met Mares and Christine Sievers. After waiting for a car to leave the residence, the four teenagers entered the residence wearing rubber gloves provided by Madrid. Once inside, the teens split up and went to different rooms. Upon hearing a female voice confront Madrid, Carrillo became scared and left the house. Carrillo testified that as she waited in the car, Mares came out of the house, followed by Sievers, and finally Madrid. Madrid was covered in blood.

Two other witnesses for the State testified that Mares told them he had been in the

Page 727

Bressler home when Madrid stabbed Filener. Although Mares did not testify at his trial, during an interview with two detectives from the Casper Police Department on June 2, 1994, he confessed to participating in the crime. The detectives testified at Mares' trial. Mares told the detectives that he, Victor Madrid, Christine Sievers, and an unknown female (later identified as Carrillo) entered the Bressler residence with the intent of "doing a little burglary." Mares stated that he was in a back bedroom of the house when he heard what sounded like a woman falling down stairs and screaming. He came out of the bedroom and witnessed Madrid stabbing the victim. Carrillo immediately ran out of the house. Mares and Sievers implored Madrid to leave, but he refused and told them to "just go," and they left the house through the front door. Madrid followed them outside, and then went back inside with Sievers. Mares told the detectives that he returned to the car where Carrillo was waiting. Shortly thereafter, Madrid and Sievers returned to the car and the four left. Mares also told the detectives that Madrid stabbed Filener with a "butterfly knife" which Mares had given Madrid a few days earlier.

After a ten-day trial, the jury found Mares guilty of felony murder, aggravated burglary, and conspiracy to commit burglary for his part in the burglary of the Bressler home and the murder of Filener. He received a sentence of life imprisonment for the felony murder conviction, a concurrent term of 20 to 25 years in prison for the aggravated burglary conviction, and a consecutive term of 4 to 5 years in prison for conspiracy. He timely appeals the judgment and sentence.

DISCUSSION

I. Affirmative Defense

Mares argues that because the stabbing was a purely independent act of a co-felon, the rigid application of the felony murder doctrine, resulting in a life sentence, is unduly harsh. Mares advocates we adopt an affirmative defense to felony murder which would apply if a defendant satisfies a list of conditions refuting the defendant's culpability for the killing. Several jurisdictions have statutorily created a no-culpability-as-to-the-homicide defense, with the most common conditions being that the defendant 1) did not commit the homicidal act or in any way cause, solicit, or aid the commission thereof, 2) had no reason to believe that any other participant would engage in conduct likely to cause death or serious bodily injury, 3) was not armed with a deadly weapon, and 4) had no reason to believe that any other participant was armed with such a weapon. Paul H. Robinson, 1 CRIMINAL LAW DEFENSES § 104, at 504-05 (1984); Wayne R. LaFave & Austin W. Scott, Jr., CRIMINAL LAW § 7.5(c), at 624 (2nd ed.1986).

The legislature abolished common law crimes in Wyoming, but chose to retain common law defenses unless provided otherwise by statute. W.S. 6-1-102 (1988). Therefore, our first inquiry is whether the defense proposed by Mares is recognized in Wyoming by statute or judicial decision. Bouwkamp v. State, 833 P.2d 486, 490 (Wyo.1992). Mares contends that although we have not explicitly adopted the defense, the defense is inherent in our prior felony murder decisions because in each of those decisions at least one of the four elements for the affirmative defense was not satisfied. In other words, our prior cases involved situations where the defendant carried out or participated in the murderous act, was armed, or knew that one or more of the participants was armed. See Jansen v. State, 892 P.2d 1131, 1133-34 (Wyo.1995) and cases cited therein. However, the fact that one or more elements of the defense was not satisfied does not mean that the court would have reached a different result if all the elements had been met, and we find no discussion or analysis in any of our prior felony murder cases which would lead us to conclude otherwise.

Two Wyoming felony murder cases addressed the issue of a defendant's individual culpability, both in the context of the death penalty. In Engberg v. State, 686 P.2d 541 (Wyo.1984), the appellant argued that pursuant to the United States Supreme...

To continue reading

Request your trial
12 practice notes
  • State v. Mares, No. S–13–0223.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • October 9, 2014
    ...filed a timely appeal. The Wyoming Supreme Court affirmed the conviction but vacated the sentence for aggravated burglary. Mares v. State, 939 P.2d 724 (Wy.1997). The Defendant filed a Motion for Sentence Reduction on October 2, 1995. The Motion was denied on October 9, 1995. No appeal was ......
  • State v. Mares, No. S–13–0223.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • October 9, 2014
    ...filed a timely appeal.The Wyoming Supreme Court affirmed the conviction but vacated the sentence for aggravated burglary. Mares v. State, 939 P.2d 724 (Wy.1997). The Defendant filed a Motion for Sentence Reduction on October 2, 1995. The Motion was denied on October 9, 1995. No appeal was t......
  • Yellowbear v. State, No. 06-246.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • January 14, 2008
    ...in this act or in another statute of this state. . . . (Emphasis added.) We have recognized this principle many times. See Mares v. State, 939 P.2d 724, 727 (Wyo.1997); Bush v. State, 908 P.2d 963, 965-66 (Wyo.1995); and Keser v. State, 706 P.2d 263, 269 (Wyo.1985). Consequently, the import......
  • Sincock v. State
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • September 12, 2003
    ...murder and the underlying felony violated the Double Jeopardy Clauses of the United States and Wyoming Constitutions. Mares v. State, 939 P.2d 724 (Wyo.1997); Roderick v. State, 858 P.2d 538 (Wyo.1993); Cook v. State, 841 P.2d 1345, 1352-53 (Wyo. [¶ 8] In Cook, the jury convicted the defend......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
12 cases
  • State v. Mares, No. S–13–0223.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • October 9, 2014
    ...filed a timely appeal. The Wyoming Supreme Court affirmed the conviction but vacated the sentence for aggravated burglary. Mares v. State, 939 P.2d 724 (Wy.1997). The Defendant filed a Motion for Sentence Reduction on October 2, 1995. The Motion was denied on October 9, 1995. No appeal was ......
  • State v. Mares, No. S–13–0223.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • October 9, 2014
    ...filed a timely appeal.The Wyoming Supreme Court affirmed the conviction but vacated the sentence for aggravated burglary. Mares v. State, 939 P.2d 724 (Wy.1997). The Defendant filed a Motion for Sentence Reduction on October 2, 1995. The Motion was denied on October 9, 1995. No appeal was t......
  • Yellowbear v. State, No. 06-246.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • January 14, 2008
    ...in this act or in another statute of this state. . . . (Emphasis added.) We have recognized this principle many times. See Mares v. State, 939 P.2d 724, 727 (Wyo.1997); Bush v. State, 908 P.2d 963, 965-66 (Wyo.1995); and Keser v. State, 706 P.2d 263, 269 (Wyo.1985). Consequently, the import......
  • Sincock v. State
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • September 12, 2003
    ...murder and the underlying felony violated the Double Jeopardy Clauses of the United States and Wyoming Constitutions. Mares v. State, 939 P.2d 724 (Wyo.1997); Roderick v. State, 858 P.2d 538 (Wyo.1993); Cook v. State, 841 P.2d 1345, 1352-53 (Wyo. [¶ 8] In Cook, the jury convicted the defend......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT