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Gomez v. State

August 3, 2010


Appeal from the District Court of Carbon County The Honorable Wade E. Waldrip, Judge.

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

Before KITE, C.J., and GOLDEN, HILL, VOIGT*fn1, and BURKE, JJ.

[¶1] Appellant, Andrew Eli Gomez (Gomez), challenges the district court's decision to deny his motion to transfer the criminal matters that underlie this appeal to the juvenile court. Gomez was convicted of felony interference with a police officer (intentionally and knowingly caused bodily harm) in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann § 6-5-204(b), as well as three misdemeanors; youthful driver with detectable alcohol, reckless driving, and failure to stop vehicle where accident involved death or personal injuries. Gomez was convicted of all the charged crimes. He was sentenced to six to ten years of incarceration for his felony conviction, with a recommendation for placement in the Youthful Offender Program (Boot Camp). Additional concurrent sentences were imposed for the misdemeanor convictions.

[¶2] In addition, Gomez challenges the constitutionality of the statute which establishes the jurisdiction of the juvenile court; claims the evidence was insufficient to sustain the conviction for felony interference with a police officer (no evidence of specific intent); asserts that the district court abused its discretion in disallowing evidence from Gomez's expert witness (this issue includes a contention that the ruling violated Gomez's right to compulsory process); and, that the district court failed to instruct the jury as to the effect of Gomez's intoxication at the time the crime was committed. We will affirm.


[¶3] Gomez raises these issues:

I. W.S. § 14-6-203 is unconstitutional.

II. Alternatively to Issue I, the trial court abused its discretion when it failed to grant [Gomez's] motion to transfer his felony case to Juvenile Court.

III. There was insufficient evidence of specific intent to sustain [Gomez's] felony conviction for interference -- attempting to cause bodily injury.

IV. The trial court erred in refusing to answer a question about the "ultimate issue" in the case. Also, this ruling violated [Gomez's] Sixth Amendment right to compulsory process.

IV. The trial court erred in failing to give an instruction to the effect of [Gomez's] intoxication [at the time the crime was committed].

The State rephrases the issues:

I. Does Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-6-203 violate due process by enhancing a person's sentence without a jury finding?

II. Did the trial court abuse its discretion when it failed to grant [Gomez's] motion to transfer his felony case to Juvenile Court?

III. Was [Gomez] charged with and found guilty of attempting to cause bodily injury to a peace officer or was he charged with and found guilty of causing bodily injury to a peace officer? [Underscoring added.]

IV. Did the trial court err in refusing to allow [Gomez's] expert witness to answer a question about the "ultimate issue" in this case?

IV. Was a voluntary intoxication instruction warranted, considering [Gomez] was charged with a general intent crime?


[¶4] On October 15, 2008, Gomez was charged with the crimes set out heretofore, in the district court. All of the crimes for which Gomez was convicted occurred around 9:30 p.m. on October 10, 2008. A 911 call directed the attention of multiple law enforcement officers to an apartment building in Rawlins to investigate a fight in progress. Gomez was at the scene of that fight and he was fleeing as the police arrived. Police Officer Chris Gulbrandson arrived at the scene to further investigate and he parked his car so as to block an exit. The headlights of Gulbrandson's patrol car were on and the car had reflective stripes and an LED light bar, but he had not activated the vehicle's overhead lights. When he got out of his car onto the roadway, Gomez ran into him with his pickup, "sandwiching" Gulbrandson between his patrol car and Gomez's pickup. Officer Gulbrandson recognized the vehicle as belonging to Gomez and he could clearly see him through the driver's side window as he was hit. Gulbrandson was seriously injured by this occurrence. Gomez fled the scene of the incident and was later found hiding in his bedroom at home. Police officers arrested him there and he resisted their efforts to make that arrest. Once in jail, Gomez was given a sobriety test which showed a BAC of.13.

[¶5] On January 6, 2009, Gomez filed a motion to transfer the proceedings in his case to the juvenile court. By order entered on January 29, 2009, the district court denied that motion. As necessary, additional facts and circumstances will be provided in our discussion of the issues raised.


Constitutionality of Juvenile Court Statutes

[¶6] The essence of Gomez's constitutional issue is that the governing statute, Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-6-203 (LexisNexis 2009), places into the hands of the prosecuting attorney, and upon motion such as this, the trial court, the decision of whether to place Mr. Gomez, a juvenile, in juvenile court, with the attendant consequences, or to place Mr. Gomez in district court, where he was made a felon and faced greatly enhanced penalties, including imprisonment, which he then received. This statute, on its face, violates Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 120 S.Ct. 2348, 147 L.Ed.2d. 2d 435 (2000).

Gomez concedes that this issue was not raised in the district court and asserts that, therefore, this Court should consider this error under a plain error analysis. In such instances we apply this standard of review:

We review constitutional questions de novo. Rabuck v. State, 2006 WY 25, ¶ 13, 129 P.3d 861, 864 (Wyo. 2006); Giles v. State, 2004 WY 101, ¶ 10, 96 P.3d 1027, 1030 (Wyo. 2004). Because Stokes did not raise the issue of the constitutionality of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-3-105 in the district court, our review of Stokes' claim is confined to a search for plain error. Plain error exists when: (1) the record is clear as to the incident alleged as error; (2) the error transgressed a clear and unequivocal rule of law; and (3) the error adversely affected a substantial right of the accused which materially prejudiced him. Moe v. State, 2005 WY 58, ¶ 7, 110 P.3d 1206, 1210 (Wyo. 2005); Pierson v. State, 956 P.2d 1119, 1123 (Wyo. 1998).

Stokes v. State, 2006 WY 134, ¶ 6, 144 P.3d 421, 423 (Wyo. 2006).

[¶7] In 1 Michael J. Dale, et al., Representing the Child Client ¶ 5.03[13][k] (Application of Apprendi Doctrine to Juvenile Delinquency Cases) (2008) the authors note:

The United States Supreme Court held in Apprendi v. New Jersey [530 U.S. 455, 120 S.Ct. 2348, 147 L.Ed.2d 435 (2000)] that any facts other than prior convictions, which increase the penalty for a crime beyond the statutory limit, must be submitted to a jury and then proved beyond a reasonable doubt. The ruling struck down a New Jersey law authorizing an increase to the maximum sentence for a crime if the trial judge found by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant had committed the crime "to intimidate an individual because of race, color, gender, handicap, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity." The Supreme Court found the statute violated the defendant's Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process and trial by jury.

Although Apprendi involved an adult defendant, a growing body of case law involves the application of the Apprendi doctrine in the juvenile delinquency context. One example is the transfer of juveniles to adult court for prosecution. It has been argued that juvenile court procedures used to prosecute children as adults violate Apprendi because adult prosecution results in an increased sentence based upon facts not submitted to a jury or proved beyond a reasonable doubt. A violation of Apprendi also may arise under an "extended jurisdiction juvenile prosecution (EJJ)." In EJJ cases in Illinois, if prosecution of a child results in a guilty plea, a finding of guilt, or a verdict of guilt, the court will impose one or more juvenile sentences and an adult criminal sentence which will be stayed on the condition that the child not violate the provisions of the juvenile sentence or commit a new crime. A third situation where an Apprendi violation may occur is in jurisdictions with "youthful offender" statutes authorizing judges to increase the punishment for juveniles convicted of certain offenses beyond the statutory maximum otherwise permitted for juveniles, if certain conditions are met.

Courts have generally been reluctant to apply Apprendi in juvenile delinquency settings not specifically involving questions of the child's guilt or innocence. Proceedings determining which system is appropriate for a juvenile offender are considered outside of the scope of Apprendi [citing In re J.W., 304 Ill. App. 3d 1, 804 N.E.2d, 1094, 1102 (2004).]

[¶8] In the case In re J.W., an Illinois appellate court ruled that an EJJ case does not implicate the rule articulated in Apprendi. J.W., at 804 N.E.2d 1101-03 (citing other similar Illinois cases). In State v. H.O., 81 P.3d 883, 885-86 (Wash.App. 2003) a Washington appellate court rejected a contention that Apprendi and its progeny mandate a "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard to decline juvenile jurisdiction.In State v. Mays, 85 P.3d 1208, 1216 (Kan. 2004), the Kansas Supreme Court held that the Kansas procedure for authorizing adult prosecution, which is similar to Wyoming's, falls outside ...

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