MBP v. State

Decision Date20 September 2022
Docket NumberS-22-0021
PartiesIN THE INTEREST OF: MBP, Appellant (Defendant), v. THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Plaintiff).
CourtWyoming Supreme Court

Appeal from the District Court of Sweetwater County The Honorable Susannah G. Robinson, Judge

Representing Appellant:

Office of Public Defender: Diane M. Lozano, State Public Defender Kirk A. Morgan, Chief Appellate Counsel; Robin S. Cooper Senior Assistant Appellate Counsel.

Representing Appellee:

Bridget L. Hill, Attorney General; Jenny L. Craig, Deputy Attorney General; Joshua C. Eames [*] , Senior Assistant Attorney General; Catherine M. Mercer [**] , Assistant Attorney General.



[¶1] MBP, a juvenile, was adjudicated delinquent for fighting in public. As part of MBP's disposition, the juvenile court placed him on supervised probation for three to six months. MBP appeals from the disposition and argues the evidence is insufficient to establish an agreement to fight. He further contends the juvenile court erred when it imposed a range of months for his sanction of probation. We affirm.


[¶2] MBP presents two issues on appeal, which we state as follows:

I. Was there sufficient evidence to support an agreement to fight?
II. Did the juvenile court violate a clear and unequivocal rule of law when it placed MBP on probation for three to six months for a sanction level one offense?

[¶3] On April 28, 2021, MBP and RV were both eighth-grade students at the public middle school in Sweetwater County, Wyoming, when they fought in the hallway of the school. The State filed a delinquency petition in juvenile court alleging MBP committed a delinquent act by fighting in public in violation of Wyoming Statute § 6-6-101 (LexisNexis 2019).

[¶4] MBP, RV, and another student testified at the adjudicatory hearing. The juvenile court also received a surveillance video of the fight. MBP claimed RV was the aggressor, and he acted in self-defense. The juvenile court found:

The elements of fighting in public . . . are that on or about the 28th day of April 2021, in Sweetwater County, Wyoming, . . . the juvenile, [MBP], by agreement fought with one or more persons in public. Most of these elements are quite clear and have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. There was testimony as to what day it happened, that it was the 28th of April 2021. That it did occur in Sweetwater County, Wyoming. It was clear . . . one of the individuals involved was [MBP], he was identified in the courtroom by [RV].
I'm going to the last element, fought with one or more persons in public. It is clear from the video that there was an incident that occurred that the Court does consider is beyond a reasonable doubt fighting with one person who would be [RV] who testified today, and that it did occur in public which is the school which is clearly a public place.
The one question I think that everyone is aware of what has been the focus is whether or not there was an agreement. There has been argument that this occurred in self-defense as well as that [MBP] was not the initial aggressor, that he was in fear for his safety. I went through the video very closely. It's only 18 seconds and so I tried to narrow it down second by second as to what occurred and here is what the Court could see:
At around second four to five [RV] can be seen what appears to be pulling [MBP's] hair. There was . . . testimony that [MBP] made a statement to [RV] prior to that [RV] was slow. That was clear from the testimony that that did occur. That . . . it appeared to be an insult to [RV]. Then it appears that [RV] pulled [MBP's] hair at second six. [MBP] is then seen following closely behind [RV] as [RV] is walking away from him and almost is stepping on top of him he is so close to him. There was testimony by [MBP] that he was trying to get around him, but from the video that does not appear to be what is happening.
At second seven [RV] turned and body checks [MBP] with his shoulder. [MBP] steps back or is pushed back as a result of that. Then at second eight [RV] puts down the items that are in his hand. At approximately second nine [MBP] then starts to put his items down, but doesn't look like he is able to do that. At second ten [RV] then shoves [MBP]. At second 11 [MBP] then puts his things down. At second 12 [MBP] steps toward [RV]. At second 13 [MBP] then shoves [RV]. Then at approximately second 15 both of them are walking towards each other with their arms at least outstretched to some degree. Then at second 16 [MBP] is jumping or moving forward towards [RV]. And then they are both out of sight because of the camera view.
This is, again, a very short video, but between approximately sec[ond] 13 and sec[ond] 16 it does appear and the Court does find beyond a reasonable doubt that this was an implied agreement between the two boys that they were going to fight each other in a public place, meaning the school.
I certainly understand the arguments that [defense counsel] is making, but from the video it just doesn't appear that [MBP] appears fearful for his safety. It does appear that . . . there are multiple points where both of the boys could have walked away and neither chose to do that. Then they are seen both going towards each other like they are wanting and agreeing to fight.
So the Court does find that the State has proved [fighting in public] beyond a reasonable doubt.

[¶5] During the dispositional phase, the juvenile court found the offense constituted a sanction level-one offense. It held: "[MBP] should be placed on probation consistent with that low-level offense which in this case would be not less than three nor more than six months of supervised probation to be supervised by juvenile probation." The juvenile court clarified "[t]hat means if [MBP] is doing well after three months that he could be released before six months. If he is not doing well then it would go potentially six months." The court entered its order of disposition on August 30, 2021. This appeal timely followed.


[¶6] When reviewing a claim that the evidence was insufficient to support an adjudication of delinquency, we use the same standards and principles that are applicable to cases tried to a jury. In re CG, 2011 WY 28, ¶ 10, 248 P.3d 186, 188-89 (Wyo. 2011) (quoting Trumbull v. State, 2009 WY 103, ¶ 9, 214 P.3d 978, 980 (Wyo. 2009)). We decide whether the evidence could reasonably support the finding by the factfinder. Neidlinger v. State, 2021 WY 39, ¶ 22, 482 P.3d 337, 344 (Wyo. 2021); Gore v. State, 2019 WY 110, ¶ 9, 450 P.3d 1251, 1253 (Wyo. 2019).

This Court examines the evidence in the light most favorable to the State. We accept all evidence favorable to the State as true and give the State's evidence every favorable inference which can reasonably and fairly be drawn from it. We also disregard any evidence favorable to the appellant that conflicts with the State's evidence.

Cotney v. State, 2022 WY 17, ¶ 9, 503 P.3d 58, 63 (Wyo. 2022) (quoting Birch v. State, 2018 WY 73, ¶ 25, 421 P.3d 528, 536 (Wyo. 2018)); CG, ¶ 10, 248 P.3d at 188-89. "We defer to the credibility determination of the juvenile court." In re DT, 2017 WY 36, ¶ 33, 391 P.3d 1136, 1146 (Wyo. 2017).

[¶7] "[J]uvenile proceedings require[] broad judicial discretion to accommodate the unique rehabilitative needs of juveniles." In re CT, 2006 WY 101, ¶ 10, 140 P.3d 643, 647 (Wyo. 2006) (quoting In re ALJ, 836 P.2d 307, 311 (Wyo. 1992)). We review a juvenile court's discretionary decision for an abuse of discretion and will not overturn such a decision unless it exceeds the bounds of reason under the circumstances. See Dobbins v. State, 2012 WY 110, ¶ 29, 298 P.3d 807, 815 (Wyo. 2012) (quoting Van Haele v. State, 2004 WY 59, ¶ 15, 90 P.3d 708, 713 (Wyo. 2004); KP v. State, 2004 WY 165, ¶ 12, 102 P.3d 217, 221 (Wyo. 2004).

[¶8] "A juvenile court enjoys broad discretion in formulating a disposition for a juvenile adjudged delinquent." In re KC, 2011 WY 108, ¶ 7, 257 P.3d 23, 25-26 (Wyo. 2011). Such discretion is limited, however, inasmuch as "[a] juvenile court cannot enter a disposition that runs counter to law." Id. We review whether a disposition is contrary to law de novo. Id. If a juvenile court enters a disposition contrary to law, such a decision amounts to an abuse of discretion. Id. (quoting CT, ¶ 8, 140 P.3d at 646).

[¶9] "If there was no objection below, alleged errors are reviewed under our plain error standard, where the appellant must show (1) a clear record of the alleged error; (2) the violation of a clear and unequivocal rule of law; (3) denial of a substantial right; and (4) material prejudice." CT, ¶ 8, 140 P.3d at 646; KP, ¶ 13, 102 P.3d at 221. "To the extent the issues concern a . . . question of law, our review is de novo." CG, ¶ 10, 248 P.3d at 188-89.


[¶10] The juvenile court adjudicated MBP delinquent for fighting in public pursuant to Wyoming Statute § 6-6-101. It placed MBP "on supervised probation for a period of not less than three months and not more than six months." MBP argues the evidence is insufficient to support the adjudication. He further contends the sentence imposed is contrary to law.

I. Sufficiency of the Evidence

[¶11] A person commits the crime of fighting in public "if by agreement, he fights with one (1) or more persons in public." Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-6-101 (emphasis added). The juvenile court found beyond a reasonable doubt that the interaction between the two boys "was an implied agreement . . . that they were going to fight each other in a public place." MBP challenges the juvenile court's finding and argues there was no evidence of either an explicit or implicit agreement. While he concede...

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