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McEuen v. State

Supreme Court of Wyoming

February 16, 2017

CASSANDRA L. McEUEN, 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 Lozano, State Public Defender; Tina N. Olson, Chief Appellate Counsel; and 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; Christyne M. Martens, Senior Assistant Attorney General; and John A. Brodie, Assistant Attorney General. Argument by Mr. Brodie.

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

          HILL, Justice.

         [¶1] After a two-day trial, a jury convicted Cassandra McEuen of one count of felony interference with a peace officer and of operating an ATV without liability insurance or valid registration. On appeal, Ms. McEuen only challenges her felony interference conviction. She claims the district court erred in denying her motion for judgment of acquittal because the evidence at trial demonstrated the arresting officer was not engaged in the lawful performance of his official duties. She also argues that the court erred in failing to give the jury her proffered self-defense instructions, and that the court should have provided the jury with definitions of phrases contained in the felony interference charge. We will affirm.

         ISSUES

         [¶2] Ms. McEuen states the issues on appeal as follows:

I. The evidence demonstrates that the officer was not in the lawful performance of his official duties.
II. The evidence was insufficient to prove intent to cause injury.
III. The court erred in denying Ms. McEuen's requested self-defense instruction and failing to instruct on the requirements of lawful performance of duties and on the definition of attempt.

         FACTS

         [¶3] On August 21, 2015, on-duty Officer Josh Buhmann noticed an ATV driving on an Evanston street without a license plate. Officer Buhmann activated his overhead lights and activated his air horn, but the driver of the ATV, Cassandra McEuen, did not stop and drove the ATV into an alleyway and eventually an apartment complex parking lot. Ms. McEuen began walking toward the apartment complex, but turned around after Officer Buhmann activated his air horn one more time.

         [¶4] After initiating contact, Officer Buhmann requested Ms. McEuen's driver's license and informed her it was illegal to drive her ATV on a public street with no registration. Ms. McEuen explained she tried to register the ATV but the courthouse was closed. Officer Buhmann requested Ms. McEuen's driver's license a second time, which she thought she had "put in her jeans, " but was not on her person. The officer asked for Ms. McEuen's name a fourth time, and she responded, "Goddamit" and began to walk away from the officer. Officer Buhmann followed and asked her where she was going, but Ms. McEuen did not respond and kept walking.

          [¶5] Officer Buhmann caught up to Ms. McEuen, and as he did so, he grabbed her left forearm and asked what she was doing. She turned to him and said, "What are you doing?" and kicked him in the right leg. Officer Buhmann testified:

It appeared to me at the time that she was trying to get away from the stop and get into the building and I wanted to stop her to make sure that, you know, she didn't have a warrant or something to - I mean, she wouldn't give me her name or any of that information, so I wasn't sure what exactly she was doing.

         [¶6] Ms. McEuen told Officer Buhmann that she was going to get her license. She demanded he let go of her, and he responded that she could not just walk away. In response, she began kicking him again. At this point, Officer Buhmann grabbed Ms. McEuen by both arms and turned her face-first against the building. This did not deter Ms. McEuen from kicking the officer, as she continued to do so backward, using her heel.

         [¶7] After some time, Ms. McEuen calmed down and Officer Buhmann began escorting her toward his patrol car. Ms. McEuen started to struggle once again, and attempted to free herself from his grasp. Officer Buhmann then pinned Ms. McEuen to the ground, placed his right knee on her legs, and brought her hands behind her back. Ms. McEuen told Officer Buhmann she would ...


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