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Nelson v. State

March 11, 2009


Appeal from the District Court of Campbell County, The Honorable Michael N. Deegan, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Golden, Justice.


GOLDEN, J., delivers the opinion of the Court; VOIGT, C.J., files a dissenting opinion.

[¶1] Appellant Dustin Lee Nelson was convicted by a jury of aggravated assault and battery. Nelson seeks reversal of that conviction based on asserted errors in the district court's discovery and evidentiary rulings. We affirm.


[¶2] Nelson presents these issues:

I. Did the district court err when it denied Mr. Nelson's motion to compel discovery, requesting the State to turn over internal investigation and other material contained in the personnel file of the witnessing police officer, without conducting an in camera review of the material?

II. Did the district court err when it prevented the defense from being able to recall the police officer during the defense's case to question him concerning past experiences where he had been assaulted in a manner similar to the method used in the present case?


[¶3] On May 9, 2006, Sergeant Andy Boisvert of the Gillette Police Department*fn1 attempted to execute a traffic stop of a gray Ford pickup truck driven by Nelson. Instead of stopping, Nelson accelerated in an effort to elude the officer. During the pursuit, Nelson lost control of the truck and it ended up in a parking lot near a six-foot chain link fence. Sergeant Boisvert pulled his patrol car behind the truck at an angle to block Nelson from escaping.

[¶4] Sergeant Boisvert exited his vehicle and approached the truck in an attempt to contact Nelson. He noticed that Nelson was frantically looking around and attempting to get the truck into gear. Sergeant Boisvert drew his service weapon and ordered Nelson to shut off the truck and show his hands. Instead of obeying Sergeant Boisvert's commands, Nelson kept trying to get the truck into gear and continued to glance back at the officer who, at that juncture, was standing between the two vehicles. After several attempts, Nelson finally got his truck in reverse and popped the clutch, causing the truck to go "screaming back" towards Sergeant Boisvert. Fortunately, Sergeant Boisvert was able to jump out of the way before the truck smashed into his patrol car. The force of the impact pushed the patrol car several feet backwards and into the street.

[¶5] While Nelson was shifting the truck back into a forward gear, Sergeant Boisvert holstered his weapon and grabbed his pepper spray. When Nelson drove the truck forward, Sergeant Boisvert sprayed him with the pepper spray in an attempt to subdue him. Nelson, however, managed to evade the officer. After striking a fence and some camper trailers parked nearby, Nelson made his way back onto the street and sped away. A short distance later, Nelson crashed the truck into another fence, abandoned the vehicle, and fled on foot. Police pursued Nelson into a trailer not far from the abandoned truck and placed him under arrest.

[¶6] The State charged Nelson with one count of felony property destruction based on the damage caused to Sergeant Boisvert's patrol car and the camper trailers and one count of aggravated assault and battery for attempting to cause bodily injury to Sergeant Boisvert with his pickup truck. Nelson subsequently pled "no contest" to the property destruction charge. Prior to his trial on the aggravated assault and battery charge, Nelson filed a motion, pursuant to Rule 16 of the Wyoming Rules of Criminal Procedure, to compel the State to disclose, among other things, any "information concerning disciplinary actions taken against any law enforcement officers who may testify in this matter," claiming that such "actions relate to conduct concerning his or her integrity, responsibilities or competency." The State opposed Nelson's discovery request, contending the requested information was outside the scope of Rule 16 and not subject to disclosure.

[ΒΆ7] The district court held a hearing on Nelson's motion. During that hearing, Nelson limited his discovery request to information contained in Sergeant Boisvert's personnel file, including reports, internal investigations and psychological assessments, pertaining to any incidents in which Sergeant Boisvert was the alleged victim of a vehicular assault. Nelson generally identified two such incidents, one involving Mike Owens and the other involving Christopher Carey. In each instance, Sergeant Boisvert pulled his weapon and shot the suspects. He killed Owens and injured Carey. No further factual details of these events were provided. ...

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