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Masias v. State

June 23, 2010

MANUEL MASIAS, APPELLANT (DEFENDANT),
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, APPELLEE (PLAINTIFF).



Appeal from the District Court of Laramie County The Honorable Michael K. Davis, Judge.

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

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

[¶1] Appellant, Manuel Masias, was charged with one count of first degree sexual assault and three counts of battery. The jury found Appellant guilty of first degree sexual assault and one count of battery.*fn1 He challenges only the conviction of first degree sexual assault, asserting that the State did not present sufficient evidence to prove all of the elements of the crime. He also claims the district court erred in its response to a jury question. We affirm.

ISSUES

[¶2] Appellant presents the following issues:

1. Was there insufficient evidence of the elements of "submission" and the "actual application of physical force and/or forcible confinement" to support the jury‟s conviction for first degree sexual assault?

2. Did the district court commit plain error in its response to the jury‟s note?

FACTS

[¶3] Appellant and the victim, K.C., began a dating relationship in July of 2006. The relationship progressed and by October of 2007 they were living together. According to K.C., it was during this time frame that Appellant became abusive. K.C. testified that Appellant was jealous, possessive, and controlling. He listened in on phone conversations and limited the amount of time K.C. spent with her family. K.C. testified to several incidents of physical abuse that occurred in late October.

[¶4] The incident that led to the sexual assault charge occurred on October 29, 2007. That evening, K.C. testified, she and Appellant had been drinking and arguing. K.C. went to bed. Appellant came into the bedroom and started "harassing" her over "wanting to have sex." When she refused, Appellant accused her of having an affair. He then got into the bed, forced her legs apart, and shoved his fist in her vagina. K.C. tried to resist, but Appellant‟s "force" held her down, and she was unable to get away. K.C. got out of bed after the assault and discovered she was bleeding. K.C. cleaned herself up and returned to bed, but remained fearful that Appellant would assault her again.

[¶5] The next day, Appellant stayed home. He was apologetic for his behavior, but K.C. testified that she feared that he would hurt her again. On October 31st, after Appellant went to work, K.C. reported the incident to a neighbor. The neighbor contacted law enforcement and K.C. was transported to the hospital. A sexual assault nurse (SANE nurse) noted bruises on K.C.‟s chest and arms. She observed that K.C. had two serious lacerations to her vaginal area. According to the nurse, the injuries were caused by blunt force trauma.

[¶6] Appellant was subsequently arrested and charged with one count of first degree sexual assault, in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-2-302(a)(i) (LexisNexis 2007) and three counts of battery, in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-2-501(b).*fn2 Appellant testified that the sexual contact was consensual. According to Appellant, when the two went to bed the night of October 29th, K.C. told him that she "want[ed] to make love" and asked if he "could give her some foreplay." Appellant said they engaged in foreplay which included Appellant inserting his finger into K.C.‟s vagina. At that point, Appellant claims that K.C., who had a history of seizures, started having convulsions. Appellant testified that he removed his hand when he realized K.C. was seizing and held her down for three to four minutes until the seizure stopped.

[¶7] The jury found Appellant guilty of first degree sexual assault and one count of battery. Appellant was sentenced to a term of incarceration of six to ten years for the sexual assault, and a concurrent term of six months for the battery. He filed a timely appeal of the first degree sexual assault conviction.

DISCUSSION

Sufficiency of the Evidence

[¶8] When an appellant presents a claim of insufficient evidence we apply the following standard of review:

When reviewing a sufficiency of the evidence claim in a criminal case, we must determine whether a rational trier of fact could find the essential elements of the crime were proven beyond a reasonable doubt. We do not consider conflicting evidence presented by the unsuccessful party, and afford every favorable inference which may be reasonably and fairly drawn from the successful party‟s evidence. We have consistently held that it is the jury‟s responsibility to resolve conflicts in the evidence. We will not substitute our judgment for that of the jury,. our only duty is to determine whether a quorum of reasonable and rational individuals would, or even could, have come to the same result as the jury actually did.

Lewis v. State, 2006 WY 81, ¶ 7, 137 P.3d 909, 911 (Wyo. 2006) (internal citations and quotations marks omitted).

[¶9] Appellant asserts that the State did not present sufficient evidence of each element of first degree sexual assault. Specifically, he contends a jury could not find that he caused "submission" of K.C., or that he caused submission by both "physical force" and "forcible confinement." To facilitate the discussion, we repeat the elements of first degree sexual assault:

(a) Any actor who inflicts sexual intrusion on a victim commits a sexual assault in the first degree if:

(i) The actor causes submission of the victim through the actual application, reasonably calculated to cause submission of the victim, of physical force or forcible confinement.

Wyo. Stat. Ann. ยง 6-2-302(a)(i). At the conclusion of the trial, the jury received the following instruction with respect to the ...


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