JAMES E. PEARSON, Appellant (Defendant),
THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Plaintiff).
from the District Court of Campbell County, The Honorable
Thomas W. Rumpke, Judge.
Representing Appellant: Office of the Public Defender: Diane
M. Lozano, State Public Defender; Tina N. Olson, Chief
Appellate Counsel; David E. Westling, Senior Assistant
Appellate Counsel. Argument by Mr. Westling.
Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney
General; David L. Delicath, Deputy Attorney General;
Christyne Martens, Senior Assistant Attorney General; D.
David DeWald, Senior Assistant Attorney General. Argument by
BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.
James E. Pearson was convicted after a jury trial of one
count of aggravated arson and one count of attempted first
degree murder for starting a fire in a motel hallway outside
the victim's room. He claims the evidence was
insufficient for the jury to conclude that he had the
specific intent to kill the victim and that his due process
rights were violated when the district court allowed the
State to call a witness to testify after failing to timely
disclose agreements between the witness and the State.
Mr. Pearson presents the following issues on appeal:
I. Did the trial court err when it failed to grant a motion
for judgment of acquittal in regard to the charge of
attempted first degree murder in that there was no evidence
of a specific intent to kill a specified human being?
II. Did the [trial] court err by refusing to exclude a
witness for whom prior plea agreements had not been disclosed
despite demand for the same, thereby failing to address
prosecutorial misconduct and the violation of Mr.
Pearson's due process rights afforded by Giglio v.
United States and Brady v. Maryland?
State articulates similar issues, although phrased in greater
On September 6, 2014, Mr. Pearson traveled from Casper to
Gillette, Wyoming to see Autumn Evans, with whom he had a
sexual relationship. He picked her up from Room 315 at the
Rodeway Inn and rented a room at the Super 8 Motel. Mr.
Pearson drove an uncommon automobile, a pearl colored
Chrysler 300 with a distinctive grill and rims. This unique
vehicle was later identified at significant times and places
Mr. Pearson gave Ms. Evans some methamphetamine and she was
supposed to sell it to someone at a bar. She did not return
from the bar, so Mr. Pearson went in looking for her and was
told that she had not been there. He then attempted to locate
her at the Super 8 and Rodeway Inn but did not find her. Ms.
Evans was actually in Room 315 of the Rodeway Inn when he
came to the door looking for her, but she instructed a man
who was in the room with her, Cameron Means, to tell Mr.
Pearson that she was not there. She hid on the floor behind
the bed while Mr. Means spoke to Mr. Pearson. Mr. Pearson
told Mr. Means he was looking for Ms. Evans because she
needed to pay for the methamphetamine.
At approximately 1:09 a.m. on September 7, 2014, Mr. Pearson
purchased gasoline. A car consistent with his was seen on
video surveillance cameras near the Rodeway Inn at
approximately 1:24 a.m. Jolene Boos testified that she was
outside the motel smoking when Mr. Pearson pulled up in his
car and got out. He was carrying an object that she could not
see very well and asked if "Autumn was home." Ms.
Boos did not respond to his question. Mr. Pearson entered the
motel, and shortly thereafter, she saw him look down at her
from the third floor stairwell window. Ms. Boos testified
that she could not remember the exact time she saw Mr.
Pearson, but within half an hour after seeing him, she heard
"some commotion." She looked out and saw that
someone had jumped out of a window and landed on top of a
vehicle. She then realized the motel was on fire. The fire
was reported at approximately 1:38 a.m.
The third floor of the motel was badly damaged. Ms. Evans was
not injured in the fire, but her boyfriend, Jeremy Duncan,
suffered very serious injuries when he fell or jumped from
the third floor. Other occupants of the motel were also
injured in the fire. Fire investigators determined that the
fire had been set deliberately outside of Room 315 using
gasoline as an accelerant. A patrol car video camera and cell
phone location records indicated that Mr. Pearson left town
just before the fire was reported.
The State charged Mr. Pearson with one count of aggravated
arson and one count of attempted first degree murder of Ms.
Evans. His jury trial began on Monday, August 17, 2015, and
ended on August 20, 2015. The Friday before trial, the State
entered into an agreement with Cameron Means giving him
immunity from prosecution for any narcotics-related crimes he
would reveal during his testimony. At 6:30 a.m. on the first
day of trial, the prosecutor notified defense counsel of the
immunity agreement and a plea agreement with Mr. Means in a
different case. Defense counsel objected, claiming that,
under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 83 S.Ct. 1194,
10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963) and Giglio v. United States,
405 U.S. 150, 154, 92 S.Ct. 763, 766, 31 L.Ed.2d 104 (1972),
the State should be prohibited from calling Mr. Means to
testify because it had violated Mr. Pearson's right to
due process by not disclosing the agreements sooner.
The district court expressed concern over the late
notification, but ultimately allowed Mr. Means to testify. It
determined that the State had not violated Brady and
Giglio because the defense would have the
opportunity to use the information about Mr. Means'
agreements with the State at trial. The jury returned guilty
verdicts on both counts, and the district court sentenced Mr.
Pearson to serve twenty-four to twenty-eight years in prison
on the aggravated arson conviction and life without the
possibility of parole on the attempted first degree murder
conviction. He filed a timely notice of appeal.
Sufficiency of the Evidence on Attempted First Degree
Mr. Pearson claims the district court should have granted his
motion for judgment of acquittal on the attempted first
degree murder charge because there was insufficient evidence
that he specifically intended to kill Ms. Evans.
In reviewing the denial of a motion for judgment of
acquittal, we examine and accept as true the evidence of the
prosecution together with all logical and reasonable
inferences to be drawn therefrom, leaving out entirely the
evidence of the defendant in conflict therewith.
A motion for judgment of acquittal is to be granted only when
the evidence is such that a reasonable juror must have a
reasonable doubt as to the existence of any of the essential
elements of the crime. Or, stated another way, if there is
[sufficient] evidence to sustain a conviction of the crime,
the motion should not be granted. This standard applies
whether the supporting evidence is direct or circumstantial.
Butcher v. State, 2005 WY 146, ¶ 11, 123 P.3d
543, 548 (Wyo. 2005).
Bruce v. State, 2015 WY 46, ¶ 52, 346 P.3d 909,
926 (Wyo. 2015). In other words, "[o]ur duty is to
determine whether a quorum of reasonable and rational
individuals would, or even could, have come to the same
result as the jury actually did." Wilkerson v.
State, 2014 WY 136, ¶ 28, 336 P.3d 1188, 1200 (Wyo.
2014) (citations omitted).
Mr. Pearson was convicted of attempted first degree murder.
Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-2-101 (LexisNexis 2015) defines
first degree murder, in relevant part, as: "(a) Whoever
purposely and with premeditated malice . . . kills any human
being is guilty of murder in the first degree." Wyo.