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Carter v. State

Supreme Court of Wyoming

March 11, 2016

CASEY J. CARTER, Appellant (Defendant),
THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Plaintiff)

          Appeal from the District Court of Campbell County. The Honorable Thomas W. Rumpke, Judge.

         For Appellant: Office of the State Public Defender: Diane M. Lozano, State Public Defender; Tina N. Olson, Chief Appellate Counsel; Diane E. Courselle, Director, and Samuel Forshner, Student Intern, Defender Aid Program, College of Law, University of Wyoming. Argument by Mr. Forshner.

         For Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Attorney General; David L. Delicath, Deputy Attorney General; Christyne M. Martens, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Caitlin F. Young, Assistant Attorney General. Argument by Ms. Young.

         Before BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ. BURKE, C.J., delivers the opinion of the Court; DAVIS, J., files a specially concurring opinion.


Page 221

          BURKE, Chief Justice.

          [¶1] The jury in Casey J. Carter's trial for felony interference with a peace officer deliberated approximately four hours before it informed the district court it was deadlocked. The district court provided the jurors with a supplemental instruction urging them to continue deliberating. A short time later, the jury returned a guilty verdict. On appeal, Mr. Carter claims that the district court's supplemental instruction improperly coerced the jury, and that he was denied effective assistance of counsel because his attorney did not object to the instruction. We affirm.


          [¶2] Mr. Carter presents two issues:

Page 222

1. Was the supplemental jury instruction coercive?

2. Was Mr. Carter denied his right to effective assistance of counsel because his attorney failed to object to the supplemental instruction?


          [¶3] Mr. Carter's trial began at 8:30 a.m. After the jury was selected and opening statements were given, the court recessed for lunch. At 1:00 p.m., the prosecution began presenting its case. It called two witnesses, police officers Ryan Mahylis and Eric Small, who had arrested Mr. Carter in his home. Both testified that when Mr. Carter was informed he was being arrested, he swung a fist at Officer Mahylis. Officer Mahylis ducked the punch, but was taken into a headlock by Mr. Carter. The officer broke away, and the two officers " took [Mr. Carter] to the ground."

          [¶4] Defense witnesses provided a different version of the incident. Enrique Ibarra, Mr. Carter's friend and roommate, observed the arrest. He testified that when Mr. Carter was told he was being arrested, he started to leave to get his medication. One of the officers grabbed his arm, and Mr. Carter " reacted" by jerking it away. The officers then took him " down to the floor." Mr. Carter testified as follows in his defense:

As I stepped forward one officer startled me because he grabbed my left hand from behind and I pulled back because it shocked me a little bit, and as soon as I pulled, the other officer grabbed my right arm and the next thing I know I was on the ground.

          [¶5] Ultimately, the case was submitted to the jury. The jury was instructed that it must determine whether Mr. Carter was guilty or not guilty of felony interference with a peace officer in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-5-204(b) (LexisNexis 2013).[1] The jury was also instructed that, if it did not find Mr. Carter guilty of interference with a peace officer, it could consider the lesser included misdemeanor offense of resisting arrest in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-5-204(a).[2] The jury began its deliberations at about 4:00 p.m.

          [¶6] Shortly after 7:30 p.m., the district court learned that the jury had indicated to the bailiffs that it was deadlocked. The district court informed the prosecutor, the defense attorney, and Mr. Carter that the jury had told the bailiffs they were " 11 to 1 on the top verdict, 12, 0 on the bottom verdict." When the bailiffs asked if the jury wanted to go home or continue deliberating, the jurors said " it wouldn't make any difference, it would still be the same." After discussion with counsel, at around 8:30 p.m., the district court instructed the jury as follows:

Ladies and gentlemen, . . . about 7:35 I received a phone call indicating that you all were at an impasse and you were having difficulty reaching an agreement and so I'm going to give you one supplemental instruction and ask you to return to continue your deliberations.
If you find that, if you reach agreement obviously let the bailiffs know but if you don't and believe it would be beneficial to break for the evening, again please let the bailiffs know and they can get that message to us, and I'll give you this following instruction and then ask you to retire to the jury room and continue your deliberations.
Ladies and gentlemen, you have already been instructed that in order to return a verdict each juror must agree thereto. The jurors have a duty to consult with one another and to deliberate with a view to reaching an agreement if it can be done without violence to your individual judgments.

Page 223

Each juror must decide the case for himself but only after -- or herself, I'm sorry, but only after an impartial consideration of the evidence with his or her fellow jurors. In the course of your deliberations, a juror should not hesitate to reexamine his or her own views and change his or her own opinion if convinced that it is erroneous.
However, no juror should surrender his or her honest conviction as to the weight or effect of the evidence solely because of the opinion of his or her fellow jurors or for the mere purpose of returning a verdict. The court requests that you deliberate further in an atmosphere of mutual deference and respect giving due consideration to the views of your fellow jurors in the knowledge that your verdict must reflect the views of all.
Your attention is specifically called to all of the other instructions given to you in this case including but not limited to those relating to the presumption of innocence, the burden of proof, and the requirement that guilt must be established beyond a reasonable doubt. And the instruction that I have just given you is to be considered with all other instructions that I've previously given you in this case.
With that additional instruction, I'll ask you to continue your deliberations, and if you have questions or need to communicate, that you need to agree to leave for the evening or you've reached a decision please contact the bailiffs, and with that, I'll excuse the jury to the deliberation room.

         Defense counsel did not object to the instruction. At approximately 9:15 p.m., the jury returned a guilty verdict on the charge of felony interference ...

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