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Watkins v. State

Supreme Court of Wyoming

November 16, 2016

CLINT D. WATKINS, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Plaintiff).

         Appeal from the District Court of Uinta County The Honorable Joseph B. Bluemel, Judge

          Representing Appellant: Office of the State Public Defender: Diane M. Lozano, State Public Defender; Tina N. Olson, Chief Appellate Counsel; Patricia L. Bennett, Senior Assistant Appellate Counsel.

          Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Attorney General; David L. Delicath, Deputy Attorney General; Christyne M. Martens, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Kellsie Jo Singleton, Assistant Attorney General.

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

          BURKE, Chief Justice.

         [¶1] Appellant, Clint D. Watkins, was convicted of two counts of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor. On appeal, he claims that prosecutorial misconduct deprived him of a fair trial. We conclude there was no misconduct, and affirm.

         ISSUE

         [¶2] The sole issue presented by Appellant is whether the prosecutor committed prosecutorial misconduct during rebuttal argument, impermissibly invading the province of the jury.

         FACTS

         [¶3] Appellant was charged with two counts of sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree, in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-2-314(a)(ii) (LexisNexis 2013). The information alleged that, in the winter of 2013, Appellant twice inflicted sexual intrusion on his daughter, CW. At the time, CW was fourteen years old and living with Appellant, his wife, and their son.

         [¶4] At the age of fifteen, CW left Appellant's house to move in with her aunt and uncle, who later adopted her. Her aunt put CW into counseling because she was depressed and suffered from panic attacks. In February of 2015, a couple of days after her first counseling session, CW reported to her aunt that she had been sexually abused by Appellant. Her aunt reported the incidents to law enforcement officials, leading to the charges against Appellant.

         [¶5] During opening statement, defense counsel laid out Appellant's theory of the case. He asserted that the evidence would demonstrate a "difficult" relationship between CW and Appellant. CW did not like living with Appellant and his wife. In early 2014, CW had an opportunity to participate in a school trip to Costa Rica. Appellant could not afford to pay for the trip, but Appellant's sister and her husband, CW's aunt and uncle, were willing to pay CW for doing chores so that she could afford the trip. CW began spending more time with her aunt and uncle and, eventually, to relieve the "ongoing strife" between CW and Appellant, the aunt and uncle arranged for CW to live with them. Near the middle of 2014, Appellant relinquished his parental rights to CW, and the aunt and uncle adopted her. Following the adoption, Appellant decided not to allow CW to spend time with her little brother, which made her angry. Defense counsel concluded:

But there was one factor that [CW] was not counting on in finding herself living with [her aunt and uncle], in a more affluent situation, a situation where she wasn't going to have to work to earn the money to go to Costa Rica. She wasn't going to have to comply with the rules that her father had been imposing on her. . . . [However, because] of the nature of this confrontation, [Appellant and his wife] decide that [her brother] shouldn't be spending any time with [CW]. . . . But [CW] hadn't counted on not seeing her little brother, someone that she dearly loves. . . . From that, we submit to you that she has made up a story that has brought all of us here today. My client, [Appellant], never sexually abused his daughter.

         [¶6] On direct examination, CW provided detailed testimony concerning the two incidents. It is unnecessary to review those details in this opinion. We merely observe that, if the jury believed CW's testimony, there ...


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