Slaughter v. State, 5439

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
Citation629 P.2d 481
Docket NumberNo. 5439,5439
PartiesDavid SLAUGHTER, Appellant (Defendant), v. The STATE of Wyoming, Appellee (Plaintiff).
Decision Date12 June 1981

Michael H. Schilling, Appellate Counsel, Wyoming Public Defender Program, and Sylvia Lee Hackl, Asst. Public Defender, Wyoming Public Defender Program, signed the brief on behalf of appellant. Sylvia Lee Hackl, Cheyenne, appeared in oral argument.

John D. Troughton, Atty. Gen., Gerald A. Stack, Deputy Atty. Gen., Criminal Division, and Allen C. Johnson, Sr. Asst. Atty. Gen., signed the brief on behalf of appellee. Allen C. Johnson, Sr. Asst. Atty. Gen., appeared in oral argument.


RAPER, Justice.

Appellant was convicted of escape pursuant to § 6-8-301, W.S.1977, Cum.Supp.1980. 1 On appeal he challenges his conviction on two bases. First, he contends that his conduct failed to constitute the crime of escape from a county jail as defined in § 6-8-301, supra, since he was not detained in a county jail when he extricated himself from police custody. Therefore, appellant argues that the trial judge erred in denying motions for dismissal and acquittal, and in instructing the jury that the defendant did not have to be physically in the county jail at the time of his escape. Appellant's second claim is that an element of the crime of escape is intent. He asserts that here the trial judge's instructions to the jury failed to require the jury to find that element's presence. Therefore, appellant concludes he is entitled to a new trial.

We will affirm.

On September 25, 1979, sometime after 11:00 a. m., the appellant David Slaughter was arrested. He was taken to the Natrona County jail and booked. Later that afternoon, he was handcuffed and escorted "across the corridor to the office of the District Court." The handcuffs were removed, and appellant was allowed to converse with his attorney in the district court's outer office. He then announced that he had to use the restroom. When he left the office and proceeded down the hall, a deputy followed a few paces behind him. The deputy then waited for appellant outside the restroom door. Soon the deputy heard a commotion, so he entered the bathroom and discovered that appellant was gone. Two days later appellant was arrested for escape.

Appellant's trial commenced on August 11, 1980. On August 13, 1980, the jury found him guilty of escaping from a county jail. As a result on November 18, 1980, he was sentenced to a term in the Wyoming State Penitentiary of not less than one and one-half years nor more than three. No credit for jail time was allowed.

Appellant's first claim of error requires a close examination of § 6-8-301, supra. In particular, appellant focuses on the statute's language that "(a)ny person * * * lawfully held * * * in any county jail * * * who escapes from the county jail shall be imprisoned * * *." From this appellant argues that to be guilty of the crime of escape as defined in § 6-8-301, supra, a defendant must have escaped from the actual confines of a county jail.

To bolster his position, appellant points to this court's decision in Horn v. State, Wyo., 556 P.2d 925 (1976). There it was said:

"Our state has adopted the rule of construction that a penal statute cannot be extended by implication or construction to persons or things not expressly brought within its terms, nor to cases not within the letter of the statute; and also that all doubts as to the construction are resolved in favor of the defendant. (Citations.) In applying this precept of statutory construction in circumstances such as this any ambiguity ought to be resolved in favor of the defendant. (Citations.)" 556 P.2d at 927.

But, we do not find any ambiguity in the statute. We believe that a reasonable person reading the statute would understand it to proscribe escape by a person committed to the custody of the county jail. Thus, it would not matter if the escape were actually made from a place other than a building labeled the county jail, so long as the defendant was committed to the custody of the county jail at the time.

Other jurisdictions when faced with similarly worded statutes have adopted the same approach. For example, in State v. Campbell, Me., 314 A.2d 398 (1974), the statute in question provided:

"If a convict sentenced to the State Prison for life or for a limited term of years or transferred thereto from the Men's Correctional Center under section 808-A or committed thereto for safekeeping under Title 15, section 453, * * * escapes therefrom, or forcibly attempts to do so, he may be punished by confinement to hard labor for any term of years, to commence after the completion of his former sentence or upon termination of such sentence by the State Probation and Parole Board * * *." 314 A.2d at 400, fn. 1.

The Maine Supreme Court developed the facts of the case as follows:

"On July 12, 1972, appellant requested, and was granted, permission to visit his mother in Oakland but on condition that he be escorted by a prison official and return to the Maine State Prison the same day. Pursuant thereto appellant and the guard journeyed to Oakland (which is in Kennebec County) where the Campbell family lived. During the course of this visit the appellant requested, and was allowed, to leave the house, which lacked plumbing facilities, and go a few feet beyond to an out-building with toilet facilities. On appellant's failure to return, the guard inspected this out-building and found a back door from which one could proceed directly into a wooded area. A preliminary search of the area failed to reveal appellant's presence and the matter was promptly reported to various police agencies. The search was continued the following day without results. However, on July 14, 1972, appellant was returned by a prison official to the prison from the Waterville City Jail. This prosecution ensued." (Footnote omitted.) 314 A.2d at 401.

The court then held:

" * * * We (have) recognized 'the common law principle that a prisoner who escapes while employed outside the walls of the institution of confinement is considered to have escaped from the institution.' (Boyce v. State,) 250 A.2d at 202. Adopting this rationale, it is immaterial that at the time of the escape the inmate was engaged in an authorized, or even unauthorized activity requiring his absence from the physical confines of the institution because we reach the identical conclusion, namely, his escape was from the Maine State Prison to which he had been committed by the Court." 314 A.2d at 403.

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled in State v. Eads, Iowa, 234 N.W.2d 108, 111, 113 (1975) that when the language any person "confined in any jail" was used to describe who could be convicted of the crime of escape, it included all those committed to jail whether or not they were physically located inside the jail. As the court stated, "Obviously a prisoner committed to jail who breaks away from the custodial officer on his way to confinement would be guilty of escape though he was never incarcerated."

Accordingly, we conclude that a reasonable reading of § 6-8-301, supra, does not limit the crime of escape, as therein defined, only to situations where an individual escapes from a building that is labeled the county jail. Included in the statute are those escapes which are made by individuals who have been committed to the custody of the county jail, regardless of where the escape actually occurs.

Therefore we must hold that the district court properly denied the defense motions for dismissal and acquittal. Further we cannot find any error in the district court's giving of Instruction No. 8. 2

The other issue we must address concerns Instruction No. 12 which provided:


"YOU ARE INSTRUCTED that when the evidence shows that a person voluntarily did an act which the law declares to be a crime, it is no defense that he did not know that his act was unlawful or that he believed it to be lawful."

Appellant argues that by giving this instruction the district court erred. The basis of his contention is that:

"The effect of Instruction Number 12 is to remove from the jury's consideration any question of the intent of the accused at the time of the alleged offense. In turn, this relieves the State of the burden of proving that the accused intended to do the act with which he is charged."

We cannot agree with appellant's underlying assumption as to the effect of this instruction because the instruction addressed the fact that ignorance of the law is not a defense. It still required the jury to find that the act was done voluntarily. For general intent crimes, this is all that was necessary for the jury to find, because if the act done was done voluntarily, "the inference thereupon arises that the defendant intended that which resulted." Dorador v. State, Wyo., 573 P.2d 839, 843 (1978).

Under Instruction No. 12, the State still had the burden of establishing that the appellant...

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9 cases
  • Seymore v. State, 05-179.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • February 23, 2007
    ...a specific intent element to the crime of escape, and we previously have said that escape is a general intent crime. Slaughter v. State, 629 P.2d 481, 483 (Wyo.1981). Therefore, the appellant is not correct in arguing that the district court's failure was the failure to include a specific i......
  • Armijo v. State, 83-86
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • March 21, 1984
    ...requires only that the prohibited conduct be undertaken voluntarily. Dean v. State, Wyo., 668 P.2d 639 (1983); Slaughter v. State, Wyo., 629 P.2d 481 (1981); and Dorador v. State, Wyo., 573 P.2d 839 (1978). We find that People v. Rostad, Colo., 669 P.2d 126 (1983), is peculiarly in point. T......
  • Bryan v. State, 86-300
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • November 24, 1987
    ...was done voluntarily. " '[T]he inference thereupon arises that the defendant intended that which resulted.' " Slaughter v. State, Wyo., 629 P.2d 481, 483-484 (1981), quoting Dorador v. State, Wyo., 573 P.2d 839, 843 (1978). "[W]here the offense is malum prohibitum, intent and knowledge are ......
  • Hopkins v. State, S-18-0262
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • July 23, 2019
    ...thereupon arises that the defendant intended that which resulted.’ " Harris , ¶ 26, 137 P.3d at 131 (quoting Slaughter v. State , 629 P.2d 481, 483–84 (Wyo.1981) ; see also Tillett v. State , 637 P.2d 261, 264 (Wyo. 1981) (stating defendants are "considered by law to have intended the natur......
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