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Dennis Poitra, Jr v. the State of Wyoming

April 12, 2012

DENNIS POITRA, JR., APPELLANT (DEFENDANT),
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, APPELLEE (PLAINTIFF).



Appeal from the District Court of Sheridan County The Honorable John G. Fenn, Judge

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hill, 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] A jury convicted Dennis Poitra Jr., of felony murder, aggravated burglary, and conspiracy to commit burglary. Poitra and two other assailants were involved in the armed robbery of a residence in Sheridan that ended in the killing of 76-year-old Bob Ernst. Poitra presents four issues on appeal and for reasons set forth in this opinion, we affirm.

ISSUES

[¶2] Poitra presents four issues for our consideration:

The trial court erred in denying Poitra's right to present the defense of involuntary intoxication, because involuntary intoxication does not require a "Not Guilty by Reason of Mental Illness" plea.

The trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury on the defense of involuntary intoxication.

The trial court abused its discretion in denying Poitra's motion to change venue and violated his right to a trial by a fair and impartial jury.

Poitra's sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole was arbitrary and capricious.

FACTS

[¶3] On the night of August 25, 2009 Dennis Poitra Jr., and his friends, Dharminder Vir Sen and Wyatt Bear Cloud, entered the home of Bob and Linda Ernst. Poitra cut a window screen, crawled through the window, and unlocked the front door for his friends. The robbery ended in the killing of Bob Ernst.

[¶4] In the days before the burglary, Poitra and his two friends preliminarily planned to burglarize homes in Sheridan and amassed weapons and gear to do so. The gun that was used to kill Mr. Ernst was stolen from a pickup truck.

[¶5] After the three males entered the Ernsts' home, they initially scoured the basement for items to steal. Upon Sen's request, Poitra handed him the gun, and they went to the bedroom of the sleeping Ernsts where after a brief exchange between Sen and Bob Ernst, Sen fired the gun three times and killed Mr. Ernst. The three burglars retreated to Bear Cloud's home. The next day Poitra implicated himself to a friend, who then told police.

Poitra was ultimately arrested, charged, and found guilty by a jury of felony murder, aggravated burglary, and conspiracy to commit burglary. The court sentenced him to life without parole and this appeal followed. Additional facts will be discussed as necessary throughout this opinion.

DISCUSSION

[ΒΆ6] On appeal, Poitra presents several issues for our consideration. First, he claims that the trial court denied him his constitutional right to present a defense by restricting the use of certain evidence. Second, Poitra argues that he was not tried by an impartial jury due to pre-trial publicity and the impaneling of a biased juror. Finally, Poitra argues that because he did not actually shoot the victim and was cooperative ...


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