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Leach v. State

Supreme Court of Wyoming

November 8, 2013

Jeremiah D. LEACH, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
The STATE of Wyoming, Appellee (Plaintiff).

Page 796

Representing Appellant: Nathan W. Jeppsen, Law Offices of Nathan W. Jeppsen, APC, Rock Springs, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee: Gregory A. Phillips, Wyoming Attorney General; David L. Delicath, Deputy Attorney General; Jeffrey Pope, Assistant Attorney General. Argument by Mr. Pope.

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

Page 797

DAVIS, Justice.

[¶ 1] A Uinta County jury found Appellant Jeremiah Leach guilty of first degree sexual assault on a physically helpless woman. He contends that the district court erred in admitting statements he made to police, and that certain statements made by the prosecuting attorney in rebuttal closing argument were improper and prejudicial. We find no error and therefore affirm.

ISSUES

[¶ 2] Leach raises two issues, which we condense as follows:

1. Did the district court abuse its discretion in admitting Leach's statements to police?
2. Did the prosecutor improperly refer to facts not in evidence during his closing argument?

FACTS

[¶ 3] In the early morning hours of June 28, 2011, Evanston police officers responded to a neighbor's report of a disturbance at LT's home. The sobbing and hysterical LT woke her son while searching for a gun, and when she went outside and he tried to calm her, she told him, loudly enough for the reporting neighbor to hear, that she had been raped.

[¶ 4] LT later testified that she returned to Evanston from visiting her boyfriend in Denver on June 27. She took her sons to dinner, and later had two beers with two female friends. After leaving her friends, she went to another bar and consumed three more beers and three Jä germeister and Red Bull cocktails. At approximately 1:30 a.m., she went to the Painted Lady, where she had another beer and another " Jä ger bomb" and ran into Leach, who was an old friend of one of LT's former boyfriends. When the bar closed, Leach asked her for a ride home.

[¶ 5] She agreed, and when they arrived, she accepted Leach's invitation to come inside for a drink of Hot Damn cinnamon schnapps. Shortly after drinking it, she began to feel nauseas and dizzy. LT is diabetic, and she believed she had consumed too much alcohol and was suffering from both intoxication and elevated blood-sugar levels. She asked Leach if she could lie down until she felt capable of driving, and he ushered her into what he characterized as a spare bedroom. He then left the room, and LT removed her jean shorts, turned off the light, and fell asleep on a mattress on the floor.

[¶ 6] She awoke to a sharp jabbing pain caused by Leach anally penetrating her. When he failed to stop as she asked, LT began struggling with him and eventually succeeded in disengaging and pushing him off the mattress. She angrily and hysterically berated him as she retreated to a nearby bathroom, where she discovered that she was bleeding from her rectum and that her underpants were torn. She discarded her undergarment in a waste can, wiped the blood off of herself with toilet paper, and stuffed more into her jean shorts as she put them on. She then went to her car and drove home, where she removed the toilet paper from her shorts and placed it in a trash can. When the police arrived to answer the call from her neighbor, she admitted having been raped after being confronted with her son's statement to that effect.

[¶ 7] The investigating officers retrieved the blood-spotted toilet paper as evidence and took LT to Evanston Regional Hospital. Emergency room personnel collected biological evidence, and observed obvious emotional distress, bruising on her buttocks, and a small laceration on her anus. While at the hospital, LT was interviewed by an Evanston police detective. After the interview, the detective went to the home where Leach was staying.

[¶ 8] Leach was awakened from a sound sleep by his landlord. He spoke to the detective, who recorded the interview. Leach first claimed that he did not know LT, that he came home drunk with " some people" the night before, and that he did not have sex with anyone that night. The detective arrested him based on the information provided by LT, and retrieved her panties, a bottle of Hot Damn schnapps, and the bedding on the mattress LT had described. As the detective placed him in a police car, Leach began asking questions, and ultimately told

Page 798

the detective that he did in fact know LT. He denied having sex with her on the night in question, but indicated that if he did, it was not " forceful."

[¶ 9] Approximately a week later, after LT brought him the jean shorts she had worn on the night of the alleged assault, the detective obtained a warrant and collected a cheek swab from Leach for DNA testing. During this encounter, which was also recorded, Leach admitted having sex with LT, but again claimed that it " was not forcible."

[¶ 10] He was charged with alternative counts of first degree sexual assault under Wyoming Statute § 6-2-302. Count I of the Information charged him with using physical force to cause LT to submit to sexual intrusion, while Count II charged him with inflicting sexual intrusion while she was physically helpless. He pled not guilty and went to trial on September 19, 2012.

[¶ 11] In the State's case-in-chief, the prosecutor asked the detective to recount his conversations with Leach, which resulted in the following exchange:

[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Your Honor, I'm going to raise an objection again for hearsay purposes. Unless— unless there's an admission coming in, it's hearsay and would be inadmissible.
THE COURT: This is a statement—
[PROSECUTOR]: A statement against interest, your Honor, ...

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