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Mraz v. State

Supreme Court of Wyoming

June 10, 2014

MIRANDA ROSE MRAZ, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Plaintiff)

Appeal from the District Court of Sheridan County. The Honorable William J. Edelman, Judge.

Representing Appellant: Office of the State Public Defender: Diane Lozano, State Public Defender; Tina N. Olson, Chief Appellate Counsel; Eric M. Alden, Senior Assistant Appellate Counsel. Argument by Mr. Alden.

Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney General; David L. Delicath, Deputy Attorney General; Jenny L. Craig, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Caitlin F. Young, Assistant Attorney General. Argument by Ms. Young.

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

OPINION

Page 932

KITE, Chief Justice.

[¶1] A jury found Miranda Rose Mraz guilty of larceny by bailee. She appeals her conviction claiming the district court erred in excluding alternate suspect evidence and giving an improper jury instruction. She also claims the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support the conviction. We conclude the evidence was insufficient to support a guilty verdict; we, therefore, reverse the conviction.

ISSUE

[¶2] The dispositive issue is whether sufficient evidence was presented to support the jury's verdict.

FACTS

[¶3] In July of 2012, the Sheridan County attorney's office charged Ms. Mraz with one count of larceny by bailee in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-3-402(b) and (c)(i) (LexisNexis 2011). The affidavit attached to the charging document stated that Ms. Mraz called 911 at approximately 11:00 a.m. on April 21, 2012, and reported she was opening the Eagles Club in Sheridan where she worked as a bartender when someone robbed the bar and attempted to cut her face. When police arrived at the scene, Ms. Mraz told them she had arrived at the Eagles Club around 10:45 that morning to work, unlocked the back door, entered the building and used her access code to shut off the alarm system when someone came from behind and pushed her head against the wall. She said she did not see the person but thought he or she likely went out the door. Ms. Mraz reported that she went downstairs and saw a light on in the back room where the safe was located. She found the safe door open and called her boss and 911. Police observed scratches across Ms. Mraz's chin and the right side of her jaw. Money bags, cash register tills and a petty cash box were missing from the safe.

[¶4] Later, when detectives examined the alarm system activity records, they learned that Ms. Mraz's access code had been used to turn the system off at 10:40 a.m., on at 10:43 a.m. and off again at 10:55 a.m. just before the alleged assault. The detectives also examined surveillance video and saw Ms. Mraz's vehicle traveling from the direction of her home toward the Eagles Club shortly before her access code was used the first time, driving back toward her home a few minutes later and then returning in the direction of the Eagles Club shortly before her access code was used the second time. When confronted with the evidence from the alarm system and surveillance video, Ms. Mraz told the detective that she had been honest and did not take the money. Police arrested Ms. Mraz. Later, in a recorded telephone conversation from jail, Ms. Mraz told her boyfriend she had forgotten to tell police she had been at the Eagles Club earlier, left to go home to change her tampon and then returned to work when she was assaulted. The items taken from the safe were never found.

[¶5] Prior to trial, the State filed a motion asking the district court to preclude Ms. Mraz from introducing " alternate perpetrator" evidence unless she first established a direct nexus between another person and the crime. The district court heard argument on the motion at the pretrial conference and

Page 933

took the matter under advisement. The case ...


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