Seymore v. State, No. 05-179.

CourtWyoming Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtVoigt
Citation2007 WY 32,152 P.3d 401
Docket NumberNo. 05-179.
Decision Date23 February 2007
PartiesBrian SEYMORE, Appellant (Defendant), v. The STATE of Wyoming, Appellee (Plaintiff).
152 P.3d 401
2007 WY 32
Brian SEYMORE, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
The STATE of Wyoming, Appellee (Plaintiff).
No. 05-179.
Supreme Court of Wyoming.
February 23, 2007.

[152 P.3d 403]

Representing Appellant: Kenneth M. Koski, State Public Defender; Donna D. Domonkos, Appellate Counsel; Marion Yoder, Senior Assistant Public Defender. Argument by Ms. Yoder.

Representing Appellee: Patrick J. Crank, Attorney General; Paul S. Rehurek, Deputy Attorney General; D. Michael Pauling, Senior Assistant Attorney General; H. Michael Bennett, Assistant Attorney General. Argument by Mr. Bennett.

Before VOIGT, C.J., and GOLDEN, HILL*, KITE, and BURKE, JJ.

VOIGT, Chief Justice.


[¶ 1] This is an appeal from an escape conviction. The appellant contends that the jury was improperly instructed and that the prosecutor committed misconduct during the trial. We reverse and remand for a new trial.

FACTS

[¶ 2] On December 24, 2003, during probation revocation proceedings in another matter, the appellant was ordered into placement with Frontier Corrections System (FCS) in Cheyenne, Wyoming. As part of the FCS intake process, the appellant signed an "understanding of escape" form that advised him of the types of actions considered by FCS to constitute "escape." Those actions included failing to return to the facility at the required time.

[¶ 3] On July 2, 2004, the appellant checked out of FCS at 5:00 p.m., with a required return time of 10:00 p.m. Trial testimony revealed that, instead of returning to FCS, the appellant spent the evening at his girlfriend's house. When the appellant did not return to the facility at 10:00 p.m., FCS personnel placed several telephone calls in an effort to locate him. Being unsuccessful, they notified local law enforcement agencies early the next morning that the appellant had escaped.

[¶ 4] The appellant telephoned FCS later that morning, allegedly stating that he "knew he was in trouble" and asking whether he should return to FCS or turn himself in to the local jail. The appellant testified that he tried to turn himself in at the jail, but the jail would not take him without an arrest warrant. Ultimately, the appellant was arrested on August 17, 2004 and charged with escape. He was convicted following a jury trial.

ISSUES

[¶ 5] 1. Whether the jury was misinformed about the mens rea element of escape?

2. Whether the prosecutor committed misconduct?

STATUTES

[¶ 6] The appellant was charged with violating Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-5-206(a)(i) (LexisNexis 2005),1 which reads as follows:

152 P.3d 404

(a) A person commits a crime if he escapes from official detention. Escape is:

(i) A felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than ten (10) years, if the detention is the result of a conviction for a felony[.]

[¶ 7] The term "official detention" is defined at Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-5-201(a)(ii) (LexisNexis 2005):

(ii) "Official detention" means arrest, detention in a facility for custody of persons under charge or conviction of crime or alleged or found to be delinquent, detention for extradition or deportation, or detention in any manner and in any place for law enforcement purposes. "Official detention" does not include supervision on probation or parole or constraint incidental to release on bail[.]

[¶ 8] As part of the adult community corrections statutes, Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 7-18-112 (LexisNexis 2005) provides specialized definitions of "escape from official detention" for persons housed in such facilities:

(a) An offender, parolee or an inmate is deemed guilty of escape from official detention and shall be punished as provided by W.S. 6-5-206(a)(i) if, without proper authorization, he:

(i) Fails to remain within the extended limits of his confinement or to return within the time prescribed to an adult community correctional facility to which he was assigned or transferred; or

(ii) Being a participant in a program established under the provisions of this act he leaves his place of employment or fails or neglects to return to the adult community correctional facility within the time prescribed or when specifically ordered to do so.

DISCUSSION
Whether the jury was misinformed about the mens rea element of escape?

[¶ 9] We have a well-established standard for the review of jury instructions, which standard incorporates the test to be applied when there was no trial objection:

Jury instructions should inform the jurors concerning the applicable law so that they can apply that law to their findings with respect to the material facts, instructions should be written with the particular facts and legal theories of each case in mind and often differ from case to case since any one of several instructional options may be legally correct, a failure to give an instruction on an essential element of a criminal offense is fundamental error, as is a confusing or misleading instruction, and the test of whether a jury has been properly instructed on the necessary elements of a crime is whether the instructions leave no doubt as to the circumstances under which the crime can be found to have been committed.

Mueller v. State, 2001 WY 134, ¶ 9, 36 P.3d 1151, 1155 (Wyo.2001) (citing Schmidt v. State, 2001 WY 73, ¶ 23, 29 P.3d 76, 83 (Wyo.2001) and Metzger v. State, 4 P.3d 901, 908 (Wyo.2000)). We analyze jury instructions as a whole and do not single out individual instructions or parts thereof. Ogden v. State, 2001 WY 109, ¶ 8, 34 P.3d 271, 274 (Wyo.2001). We give trial courts great latitude in instructing juries and "`will not find reversible error in the jury instructions as long as the instructions correctly state the law and the entire set of instructions sufficiently covers the issues which were presented at the trial.'" Id. (quoting Harris v. State, 933 P.2d 1114, 1126 (Wyo.1997)). Brown v. State, 2002 WY 61, ¶ 9, 44 P.3d 97, ¶ 9 (Wyo.2002).

Finally, we have indicated that when an appellant does not object at trial to the jury instructions, or request that a certain instruction be included, our review of this issue follows our plain error standard:

First, the record must clearly present the incident alleged to be error. Second, appellant must demonstrate that a clear and unequivocal rule of law was violated in a clear and obvious, not merely arguable, way. Last, appellant must prove that he was denied a substantial right resulting in material prejudice against him.

152 P.3d 405

Ogden v. State, 2001 WY 109, ¶ 9, 34 P.3d 271, ¶ 9 (Wyo.2001) (quoting In Interest of CB, 749 P.2d 267, 268-69 (Wyo.1988)); see also Brown, ¶ 10.

Leyva v. State, 2005 WY 22, ¶ 8, 106 P.3d 873, 876 (Wyo.2005).

[¶ 10] The appellant did not object at trial to the jury instructions that were given, and did not offer any additional instructions. Therefore, we review this issue under our plain error standard. Succinctly stated, the appellant now contends that plain error occurred here because the district court failed to instruct the jury on an essential element of the crime—intent—which is a fundamental error requiring reversal. See Compton v. State, 931 P.2d 936, 940 (Wyo. 1997).

[¶ 11] Nine instructions were read to the jury, two of which bear upon this issue. Instruction No. 2, in pertinent part, set forth the elements of the charged crime:

1. On or about July 3, 2004.

2. In Laramie County, Wyoming.

3. The Defendant, Brian Seymore.

4. Escaped from official detention.

5. While being detained as the result of a conviction for a felony.

In turn, Instruction No. 3 defined the term "escape" in the context of an adult community correctional facility:

A person placed at an adult community corrections facility is deemed to have escaped from that facility if, without proper authorization, the person fails to return to the facility within the time prescribed. The Frontier Corrections facility at which Mr. Seymore was placed is an adult community corrections facility.

The parties have stipulated that Mr. Seymore was placed by the District Court at Frontier Corrections facility as a result of his conviction for a felony offense.

[¶ 12] All first-year law students are taught that, as a general rule, every crime must contain two elements: an actus reus and a mens rea. Those terms are defined in Black's Law Dictionary 39 and 1006 (8th ed.2004), respectively, as follows:

[The] actus reus [is] the wrongful deed that comprises the physical components of a crime and that generally must be coupled with mens rea to establish criminal liability; a forbidden act actus reus for theft is the taking of or unlawful control over property without the owner's consent>.—Also termed deed of crime; overt act.

Mens rea [is] the state of mind that the prosecution, to secure a conviction, must prove that a defendant had when committing a crime; criminal intent or recklessness mens rea for theft is the intent to deprive the rightful owner of the property>. Mens rea is the second of two essential elements of every crime at common law, the other being the actus reus.—Also termed mental element; criminal intent; guilty mind.

See, e.g., Lopez v. State, 2004 WY 28, ¶ 19, 86 P.3d 851, 858 (Wyo.2004) (malice as the mens rea element of second-degree murder); Keats v. State, 2003 WY 19, ¶ 28, 64 P.3d 104, 113 (Wyo.2003) (malice as the mens rea element of first-degree arson); Mitchell v. State, 865 P.2d 591, 596, 599 (Wyo.1993) (physical intrusion as the actus reus and sexual arousal, gratification or abuse as the mens rea of second-degree sexual assault); and Mondello v. State, 843 P.2d 1152, 1163 (Wyo.1992) (agreement as the actus reus in conspiracy).

[¶ 13] In his brief, the appellant contends not only that the jury should have been instructed as to a mens rea element, but that it should have been instructed that escape is a "specific intent" crime. Not too long ago, we addressed the historical attempt to distinguish between "specific intent" and "general intent" crimes:

Appellant's claimed "logical impossibility" arises from the "intent"...

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22 practice notes
  • McGinn v. State, No. S–14–0251.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • November 6, 2015
    ...50, 46 P.3d 309, 321 (Wyo.2002); [361 P.3d 307see also [United States v.] Sanchez,176 F.3d [1214,] 1224[ (9th Cir.1999) ].Seymore v. State,2007 WY 32, ¶ 20, 152 P.3d 401, 410 (Wyo.2007), abrogated by Granzer v. State,2008 WY 118, 193 P.3d 266 (Wyo.2008). It is prosecutorial misconduct: to v......
  • Yellowbear v. State, No. 06-246.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • January 14, 2008
    ...duty to protect his or her child? [¶ 32] We recently reiterated our standard for the review of jury instructions in Seymore v. State, 2007 WY 32, ¶ 9, 152 P.3d 401, 404 Jury instructions should inform the jurors concerning the applicable law so that they can apply that law to their findings......
  • Brown v. State, No. S–13–0269.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • August 19, 2014
    ...the law, or the instructions, taken as a whole, do not sufficiently cover the issues presented at trial.” Id. (citing Seymore v. State, 2007 WY 32, ¶ 9, 152 P.3d 401, 404 (Wyo.2007)). [¶ 15] Mr. Brown argues that the district court failed to adequately instruct the jury on the theory of sel......
  • Klingbeil v. State, S-20-0213
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • August 4, 2021
    ...WY 71, ¶ 50, 46 P.3d 309, 321 (Wyo.2002); See also [United States v.] Sanchez, 176 F.3d [1214,] 1224 [(9th Cir.1999)].Seymore v. State, 2007 WY 32, ¶ 20, 152 P.3d 401, 410 (Wyo.2007), abrogated by Granzer v. State, 2008 WY 118, 193 P.3d 266 (Wyo.2008). It is prosecutorial misconduct: to vou......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
22 cases
  • McGinn v. State, No. S–14–0251.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • November 6, 2015
    ...50, 46 P.3d 309, 321 (Wyo.2002); [361 P.3d 307see also [United States v.] Sanchez,176 F.3d [1214,] 1224[ (9th Cir.1999) ].Seymore v. State,2007 WY 32, ¶ 20, 152 P.3d 401, 410 (Wyo.2007), abrogated by Granzer v. State,2008 WY 118, 193 P.3d 266 (Wyo.2008). It is prosecutorial misconduct: to v......
  • Yellowbear v. State, No. 06-246.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • January 14, 2008
    ...duty to protect his or her child? [¶ 32] We recently reiterated our standard for the review of jury instructions in Seymore v. State, 2007 WY 32, ¶ 9, 152 P.3d 401, 404 Jury instructions should inform the jurors concerning the applicable law so that they can apply that law to their findings......
  • Brown v. State, No. S–13–0269.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • August 19, 2014
    ...the law, or the instructions, taken as a whole, do not sufficiently cover the issues presented at trial.” Id. (citing Seymore v. State, 2007 WY 32, ¶ 9, 152 P.3d 401, 404 (Wyo.2007)). [¶ 15] Mr. Brown argues that the district court failed to adequately instruct the jury on the theory of sel......
  • Klingbeil v. State, S-20-0213
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • August 4, 2021
    ...WY 71, ¶ 50, 46 P.3d 309, 321 (Wyo.2002); See also [United States v.] Sanchez, 176 F.3d [1214,] 1224 [(9th Cir.1999)].Seymore v. State, 2007 WY 32, ¶ 20, 152 P.3d 401, 410 (Wyo.2007), abrogated by Granzer v. State, 2008 WY 118, 193 P.3d 266 (Wyo.2008). It is prosecutorial misconduct: to vou......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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