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Town v. State

Supreme Court of Wyoming

May 28, 2015

CHRISTOPHER MICHAEL TOWN, Appellant (Defendant),
THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Plaintiff)

Appeal from the District Court of Laramie County. The Honorable Steven K. Sharpe, Judge.


For Appellant: Office of the State Public Defender: Diane M. Lozano, State Public Defender; Tina N. Olson, Chief Appellate Counsel. Argument by Ms. Olson.

For Appellee: Peter K. Michael, 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 BURKE, C.J., and HILL, KITE, DAVIS, and FOX, JJ.


Page 258

BURKE, Chief Justice.

[¶1] Appellant, Christopher Town, pled guilty to second degree murder, and was sentenced to serve 75 years to life in prison. He appeals, claiming the district court considered improper evidence in determining his sentence. We affirm.


[¶2] Appellant raises two issues:

Page 259

1. Did plain error occur when statements were allowed during sentencing that were not proper victim impact statements?
2. Did the trial court err in allowing the State to present evidence at sentencing in violation of W.R.Cr.P. 32?


[¶3] On October 3, 2013, the State filed an information charging Appellant with the first degree murder of his estranged wife. In the accompanying Affidavit of Probable Cause, a Cheyenne police detective stated that at approximately 9:00 p.m. on the previous night, a man called 911 and said he had shot and killed his wife. The police arrived at the residence and found Appellant outside. Inside, they discovered the body of Appellant's wife, Crystal Town, a firearm, and empty ammunition casings. A medical response team confirmed that Ms. Town was dead. Appellant remained outside with law enforcement personnel, and was overheard saying " I hurt my family," and " I apologize for what I did." Appellant was arrested and jailed.

[¶4] Police also located Appellant's ten-year-old daughter, M.T., outside of the residence. According to the affidavit, M.T. was interviewed at the police department. She told the officers she had been at the residence with Appellant, waiting for her mother to come get her. After arriving, Ms. Town and Appellant argued. M.T. said Appellant pulled a gun out of his pocket and shot her mother several times.

[¶5] The detective spoke with Appellant's mother shortly after the incident. She reported that Appellant was upset and frustrated by his ongoing divorce. She explained that Appellant wanted to get back together, while Ms. Town was moving forward with the divorce.

[¶6] At his arraignment, Appellant pled not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental illness. Before trial, Appellant reached a plea agreement with the State. Appellant agreed to plead guilty to an amended charge of second degree murder and the State agreed to dismiss the charge of first degree murder. There was no agreement on a recommended sentence. When Appellant offered his guilty plea, the district court questioned him to ascertain a factual basis for the plea. Appellant explained: " Basically, my wife had come home to pick up our daughter. There was a heated discussion, argument; and I shot her. . . . I pulled out the pistol, and I shot her five times, four times." The district court accepted the plea of guilty to the charge of second degree murder.

[¶7] At the sentencing hearing, the district court indicated that it had reviewed the presentence report, which included several victim impact statements, and asked if Appellant had any objections to the contents of the report. Appellant said he did not. A friend of Appellant, Appellant's mother, and Appellant presented oral statements to the Court. A letter from Appellant's sister was read aloud. Six individuals provided verbal statements to the court during the State's presentation. The State also called a police detective as a witness. He provided additional information regarding the crime and, through him, the State introduced additional evidence. Appellant did not object to this procedure or any of the evidence presented. Appellant's counsel urged the Court to impose a sentence of 20 to 50 years. The State recommended a sentence of 75 years to life.[1]

[¶8] In its remarks, the district court noted mitigating factors it had considered, including Appellant's " minimal criminal history," and his acceptance of responsibility for the crime. It concluded, however, that " the aggravating factors in this case vastly outweigh the mitigating factors." It observed that Appellant " took the life of a completely innocent victim for no apparent reason that the Court can see other than the fact that she had filed for a divorce against you." Further, the district court stated,

[Y]ou committed this violent and brutal murder in front of your own daughter. She will certainly carry that horrible memory with her for the rest of her life, the ...

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