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Marshall Louis Washington v. the State of Wyoming

September 20, 2011


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

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Voigt, 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] The appellant, Marshall Washington, while working as a confidential informant for the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI), was arrested after drugs were discovered in his vehicle. In this appeal, he challenges the district court's denial of discovery of the confidential informant agreement (CI agreement) between him and DCI, as well as DCI's policy manual regarding procedures to be followed with confidential informants (CI policy manual). The appellant further argues that the matter should be reversed and remanded inasmuch as the Modified Judgment and Sentence does not fully comply with W.R.Cr.P. 32.

[¶2] Finding no reversible error, we affirm the conviction and remand to the district court to amend the Modified Judgment and Sentence for compliance with the Wyoming Rules of Criminal Procedure.


[¶3] 1. Did the district court improperly deny discovery of the CI agreement and the CI policy manual?

2. What is the effect of the noncompliance with W.R.Cr.P. 32 in the Modified Judgment and Sentence?


[¶4] The appellant was arrested on March 29, 2010, for shoplifting. While in jail on that charge he indicated to the arresting officer willingness to serve as a confidential informant. DCI agents contacted him later that same day to determine the extent of the information that the appellant would be able to provide. The agents informed the appellant that he could assist them by participating in a "controlled buy"*fn1 and that he should contact them when released from jail.

[¶5] On March 31, 2010, after his release on bond, the appellant met the agents at the DCI office. At that time, the agents explained the terms of the CI agreement, which the appellant later signed. The appellant was given a copy of the agreement to follow along as one of the agents read through and explained the items included in the agreement. The appellant, however, was not allowed to keep this copy. Of particular importance to this appeal was item number 4, which read as follows: "Do you understand that you are not to handle any contraband or illegal substances, at any time, unless specifically authorized to do so by an agent or officer of this agency?" During this meeting, the agent explained to the appellant that he did not have authorization to buy drugs unless specifically instructed to do so.

[¶6] On April 20, 2010, the appellant returned to the DCI office to participate in a controlled buy operation. After explaining their expectations to the appellant, the agents informed the appellant that they would need to search both his person and his vehicle because the vehicle would be used in the course of the operation. At that point, the appellant appeared to become nervous and told the agents that they would find a marijuana cigarette, crack pipes, and a syringe in his vehicle. While searching the appellant's car, the agents also found a black sock under the driver's seat containing crack cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, clonazepam, hydrocodone, methadone, and oxycodone. The appellant was arrested and charged with seven counts of possession of a controlled substance pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 35-7-1031(c) (LexisNexis 2011). He pled not guilty to those charges.

[¶7] Prior to trial, the appellant moved to compel discovery of DCI's CI policy manual. The State refused to provide the appellant with the manual asserting lack of relevance. At the hearing on the Motion to Compel Discovery, the district court conducted an in camera review of the CI policy manual. Based on that review, the district court denied the appellant's motion. Both the CI policy manual and the CI agreement signed by the appellant were sealed for appellate purposes; however, the signed CI agreement was left available to the parties for use at trial.

[ΒΆ8] At trial, the appellant's defense was that he was under the mistaken belief that he had been authorized by the DCI agents to purchase drugs on his own. The ...

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