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Britton v. State

July 15, 2009

RANDALL BRITTON, APPELLANT (DEFENDANT),
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, APPELLEE (PLAINTIFF).



Appeal from the District Court of Uinta County, The Honorable Dennis L. Sanderson, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Burke, Justice

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

[¶1] Randall Britton was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for the suffocation death of his girlfriend‟s infant daughter. Before trial, the district court ruled that evidence of bruising on the child‟s body would not be admissible. At trial, however, a medical report that included references to bruising was admitted into evidence without objection. On appeal, Mr. Britton challenges the admission of this information into evidence. We conclude that it was harmless error, and affirm Mr. Britton‟s conviction.

[¶2] Mr. Britton also challenges a provision of his written sentence ordering him to pay public defender fees. Mr. Britton contends that this provision is invalid because it is contrary to the district court‟s oral ruling. The State concedes this issue, and we remand for correction of Mr. Britton‟s sentence.

ISSUES

[¶3] Mr. Britton raises these two issues:

1. Did the district court err when it allowed into evidence a State exhibit which contained numerous references to information that the court had previously ruled inadmissible under W.R.E. 404(b)?

2. Is Appellant‟s sentence illegal because the trial court imposed fees for his public defender‟s representation in the written Judgment and Sentence, contrary to the trial court‟s previous finding at sentencing that he did not have the ability to pay these fees?

The issues listed by the State add some helpful details:

A. Did the district court commit reversible error in permitting the introduction of State‟s Exhibit 10 that contained references to bruising on the victim‟s buttocks?

B. Did the district court impose an erroneous sentence by awarding public defender‟s fees in its written Judgment and Sentence?

FACTS

[¶4] Mr. Britton was employed as a long-haul truck driver. In 2007, he met Nichole Waters. Soon after their meeting, Ms. Waters and her daughter went "on the road" with Mr. Britton in his truck.

[ΒΆ5] On May 11, 2007, Ms. Waters and her eleven-month-old daughter were with Mr. Britton as he drove the truck west on Interstate 80 through southern Wyoming. The child was "fussy" that day because she was teething and congested, but she quieted when Ms. Waters gave her some cough medication. They stopped in Rock Springs to deliver a load, and then went to a local truck stop for something to eat. As they left the truck stop, the child became fussy again. Mr. Britton gave her a bottle, and wrapped her tightly in a blanket -- "like a burrito," in his ...


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