Mraz v. State

Citation2016 WY 85,378 P.3d 280
Decision Date29 August 2016
Docket NumberS–15–0175
PartiesMiranda Rose Mraz, Appellant (Defendant), v. The State of Wyoming, Appellee (Plaintiff).
CourtWyoming Supreme Court

Representing Appellant: Office of the State Public Defender: Diana Lozano, State Public Defender; Tina N. Olson, Chief Appellate Counsel; and Kirk A. Morgan, Senior Assistant Appellate Counsel. Argument by Mr. Morgan.

Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney General; David L. Delicath, Deputy Attorney General; Christyne M. Martens, Senior Assistant Attorney General; and Caitlin F. Young, Assistant Attorney General. Argument by Ms. Young.

Before BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.


, Justice.

[¶1] A jury convicted Miranda Mraz of seven counts of felony forgery and one count of misdemeanor theft arising out of charges that as a server at a restaurant she altered credit card receipts to increase the amount of her tips. On appeal, Ms. Mraz asserts that her conviction should be reversed on grounds of vindictive prosecution, ineffective assistance of counsel, prosecutorial misconduct, failure to provide supplemental instructions to the jury, and insufficiency of the evidence. We affirm.


[¶2] Ms. Mraz states the issues on appeal as follows:

I. Were Ms. Mraz's due process rights violated as her prosecution was motivated by prosecutorial vindictiveness?
II. Was Ms. Mraz provided effective assistance of counsel?
III. Was Ms. Mraz denied her right to a fair trial when the prosecutor in closing argument argued facts not in evidence?
IV. Did the district court commit reversible error when it failed to provide a substantive answer of a question of law asked during jury deliberation?
V. Was the evidence insufficient to support a conviction for forgery or misdemeanor theft?

[¶3] In 2013, Ms. Mraz began working at the Trails End Motel in Sheridan, Wyoming. Ms. Mraz worked first in housekeeping and then was promoted to server in the motel's restaurant, the Firewater Grill. In November 2013, a customer contacted Robert Romeo, the assistant general manager of the Trails End Motel and Firewater Grill, and complained that he had been overcharged for a tip he left on a credit card payment to the Firewater Grill that month. Mr. Romeo looked into the customer's complaint and verified that the customer had been overcharged. Mr. Romeo then reported what he had found to Robert Green, the general manager who supervised operations at the Firewater Grill.

[¶4] Upon learning of the overcharge, Mr. Green directed Mr. Romeo to review the transactions for all the restaurant's servers during that same month to ensure this type of overcharge was not occurring frequently. After completing that review, Mr. Romeo reported to Mr. Green that he had found additional credit card transactions that were altered and that while one of the transactions involved a customer served by a server other than Ms. Mraz, the other several transactions involved customers served by Ms. Mraz. Mr. Green and Mr. Romeo both met with Ms. Mraz at this point and informed of her of what they had found. Ms. Mraz denied any wrongdoing in relation to the transactions.

[¶5] Following their meeting with Ms. Mraz, Mr. Green directed Mr. Romeo to broaden his investigation to include another month's worth of credit card transactions. Mr. Romeo completed his review of the additional transactions and reported to Mr. Green that he found additional altered transactions and all of them were for customers served by Ms. Mraz. Mr. Green and Mr. Romeo then met with Ms. Mraz and terminated her employment.

[¶6] On February 19, 2014, Officer Daniel Keller of the Sheridan Police Department conducted an alcohol compliance check at the Firewater Grill. During an alcohol compliance check, two officers in plain clothes accompany an under-aged person into a bar and have that person attempt to buy alcohol. After completing the compliance check, Officer Keller reported the results of the compliance check to Mr. Green. During that conversation, Mr. Green asked Officer Keller about reporting the altered credit card transactions involving Ms. Mraz. Officer Keller advised Mr. Green that he could not take his report at that time because he was there solely for the purpose of the compliance check, but he urged Mr. Green to call the police department and report the matter.

[¶7] On February 21, 2014, Officer Keller returned to the Firewater Grill after finding that no report had been called in. On that date, Officer Keller spoke with Mr. Romeo about the allegations against Ms. Mraz, and Mr. Romeo turned over the documents gathered in his review of the credit card transactions involving customers served by Ms. Mraz. Officer Keller then turned the documents over to the detectives division of the Sheridan Police Department.

[¶8] On May 29, 2014, the State filed an information against Ms. Mraz charging her with six counts of felony forgery for the alteration of credit card receipts and one count of misdemeanor theft, all relating to the transactions at Firewater Grill. On June 13, 2014, the State filed an amended information, which added a count of felony forgery. On March 2, 2015, following a seven-day trial, a jury returned a verdict finding Ms. Mraz guilty of all seven counts of felony forgery and the one count of misdemeanor theft. On June 5, 2015, the district court entered its judgment and sentence. The court sentenced Ms. Mraz to serve eighteen to thirty months in prison on each of the seven counts of felony forgery, to be served concurrently, and suspended those sentences in favor of three years of supervised probation. On the single count of misdemeanor theft, the court sentenced Ms. Mraz to serve thirty days in jail and suspended that sentence in favor of six months supervised probation, to be served concurrent to the probation for the forgery convictions. On July 2, 2015, Ms. Mraz filed her timely notice of appeal to this Court.


[¶9] Ms. Mraz presents her sufficiency of the evidence challenge as her final claim of error on appeal. Because our discussion of the evidence supporting Ms. Mraz's conviction may be helpful in our discussion of Ms. Mraz's other claims of errors, we will consider the sufficiency of the evidence claim first. We will then address Ms. Mraz's remaining claims of error in the order presented.

A. Sufficiency of the Evidence
1. Background

[¶10] Because our consideration of Ms. Mraz's sufficiency of the evidence claim requires an understanding of how servers at the Firewater Grill handle transactions with the customers they serve, we will begin our discussion there. More particularly, the jury was provided with detailed testimony on the restaurant's system for processing, recording and tracking customer transactions, and we briefly summarize that background below.

[¶11] The first piece of background information is the Firewater Grill's system for processing and tracking customer transactions. The Firewater Grill uses a point of sale computer program called Maitre 'D, which was also the system in use when Ms. Mraz worked as a server at Firewater Grill. Each server has a server ID, which is a specific number assigned to that server that allows the server to log into the system. The server uses his/her server ID to: sign into the system with a status that allows the server to wait on tables; open a table and assign the table to a server; to record the number of customers at a table; place and record orders for a table; generate a bill to give to a customer; process cash and credit/debit card payments by a customer; and finalize any transaction with a customer.

[¶12] Using the Maitre 'D system, the first thing a Firewater Grill server must do upon arriving at work is sign into the system using his/her server ID. [After a customer arrives and is seated, the server enters his/her server ID, enters the table number, and enters the number of customers at the table. After taking any orders from a table, the server then enters that additional information into the system. After customers inform a server that no additional service is required, the server, again using his/her server ID, opens the check for that table on the system and prints the check.

[¶13] The check generated by Maitre 'D will show the table number, the details of the order, the order total, the date and time the check was printed, the server ID number, and the server's name. If a customer pays with a credit/debit card, the server again opens the ticket in the system, runs the card through the system, and then prints merchant and customer copies of the credit/debit card receipt. The merchant copy provides a line for a customer to enter a tip amount and a line for the customer's signature. After the customer signs the merchant copy, it is returned to the server, and the server, again using his/her server ID number, finalizes the transaction by entering into the system the total amount paid, including the tip.

[¶14] The second piece of background information that is important to our consideration of Ms. Mraz's sufficiency of the evidence claim is the manner in which a Firewater Grill server handles cash and receipts received from customers during the server's shift. The restaurant's servers use a system called “server banking.” This means the server is the bank for a table. If a customer pays in cash, the server makes change for the customer from cash the server is holding. If the server does not have the denominations needed to make the change, the server will take the larger bills given by the customer to a bartender or the motel's front desk and have the larger bill broken into smaller bills that will allow the server to make change. The server keeps all cash paid by customers and all receipts, including both credit/debit card and cash receipts, on his/her person until the end of the server's shift.

[¶15] At the end of a server's shift, the server uses the Maitre 'D system to prepare a document entitled “Summary of Sales.” The Summary of...

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