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Justin Daniel Breazeale v. the State of Wyoming

January 24, 2011

JUSTIN DANIEL BREAZEALE, APPELLANT (DEFENDANT),
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, APPELLEE (PLAINTIFF).



Appeal from the District Court of Natrona County The Honorable David B. Park, Judge

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

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

NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in Pacific Reporter Third. Readers are requested to notify the Clerk of the Supreme Court, Supreme Court Building, Cheyenne, Wyoming 82002, of any typographical or other formal errors so that correction may be made before final publication in the permanent volume.

[¶1] Justin Daniel Breazeale appeals his conviction on one count of aggravated homicide by vehicle, raising six separate claims of error. We will affirm his conviction.

ISSUES

[¶2] Mr. Breazeale presents these issues:

1. Did the trial court err in denying the suppression of medical records obtained from Mr. Breazeale after assertion of his right to silence and counsel?

2. Did the evidence support a conviction of reckless driving?

3. Did the evidence support a conviction of driving under the influence of cocaine?

4. Did the presentation of evidence of cocaine use two days prior to the incident violate W.R.E. 404(b)?

5. Did the district court have jurisdiction to try Mr. Breazeale on a charge different from the one on which he was bound over by the circuit court?

6. Did the trial court deny Mr. Breazeale his constitutional right to present his defense of a medical cause of his unconsciousness?

FACTS

[¶3] On March 15, 2009, Mr. Breazeale and his girlfriend were running errands in Casper, Wyoming, in a pickup borrowed from a friend. While driving, Mr. Breazeale lost consciousness or "blacked out." During the black out, his pickup veered to the left, crossed three lanes of traffic, and collided head-on with a small station wagon. The driver of the station wagon died from injuries suffered in the wreck. According to Mr. Breazeale, he did not realize he had wrecked the pickup until he regained consciousness after the collision.

[¶4] At the scene of the collision, Mr. Breazeale's girlfriend told the police she did not know how the wreck occurred. She was looking at something in her lap, she said, and the next thing she knew, the pickup was crashing into the other vehicle. At trial, however, she testified that Mr. Breazeale had lost consciousness after inhaling "canned air" they had purchased at an office supply store. At trial, a toxicology expert testified that the active ingredients in "canned air," when inhaled, cause a "very rapid intoxication phase, a euphoric phase . . . [a] very fast high." The toxicologist also stated that inhaling "canned air" can cause loss of consciousness and loss of muscle control.

[¶5] Mr. Breazeale was taken to the hospital after the wreck. There, he agreed to testing of his blood and urine. The tests did not reveal any traces of the "canned air," but as the toxicologist explained, the active ingredients in "canned air" are so volatile that they become undetectable "within an hour." The analyses did reveal the presence of cocaine metabolites.*fn1 In addition, the police analyzed the used can of "canned air" found in the pickup after the wreck, and found DNA consistent with Mr. Breazeale's on the tube through which the "canned air" was sprayed. After these test results were returned, the police arrested Mr. Breazeale and charged him with aggravated vehicular homicide.

[¶6] At trial, Mr. Breazeale denied inhaling "canned air" before the wreck. He asserted that his black out was due to a seizure disorder, which was not diagnosed until after the wreck. A neurologist who testified at trial confirmed a diagnosis of epileptic seizures. According to the neurologist, Mr. Breazeale could have experienced a seizure just prior to the wreck, though he could not say whether Mr. Breazeale actually had suffered a seizure at that time.

[¶7] The jury found Mr. Breazeale guilty of aggravated vehicular homicide, in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-2-106(b)(i) and (ii) (LexisNexis 2009):

A person is guilty of aggravated homicide by vehicle and shall be punished by imprisonment in the penitentiary for not more than twenty (20) years, if:

(i) While operating or driving a vehicle in violation of [specified statutes prohibiting such while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or controlled substances], he causes the death of another person and the violation is the proximate cause of the death; or

(ii) He operates or drives a vehicle in a reckless manner, and his conduct is the proximate cause of ...


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