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Barrowes v. State

Supreme Court of Wyoming

March 1, 2017

THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Plaintiff).

         Appeal from the District Court of Sweetwater County The Honorable Nena James, Judge

          Representing Appellant: Office of the State Public Defender: Diane Lozano, State Public Defender; Tina N. Olson, Chief Appellate Counsel; Kirk A. Morgan, Senior Assistant Appellate Counsel. Argument by Mr. Morgan.

          Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney General; David L. Delicath, Deputy Attorney General; Philip M. Donoho, Assistant Attorney General; Darrell D. Jackson, Faculty Director; K. T. Farrelly, Student Director; and Sierra M. Collver, Student Intern, of the Prosecution Assistance Program. Argument by Ms. Collver.

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

          DAVIS, JUSTICE.

         [¶1] Appellant Edward Barrowes challenges his conviction of aggravated vehicular homicide as defined by Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-2-106(b)(ii) (LexisNexis 2015). He claims the evidence presented by the State was insufficient to establish that he drove in a reckless manner. We affirm.


         [¶2] Was the evidence sufficient to support the jury's verdict that Barrowes was guilty of aggravated homicide by vehicle?


         [¶3] Viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the State, see Hill v. State, 2016 WY 27, ¶ 20, 371 P.3d 553, 560 (Wyo. 2016), the facts established at trial are as follows. Barrowes is a professional semi-trailer truck driver with a commercial driver's license. A commercial driver's license certifies that a person has gone through the required training and testing and can legally operate a commercial motor vehicle weighing over a certain amount. Those holding a commercial driver's license are subject to federal regulations because of the higher level of knowledge, experience, and skill required to drive a commercial motor vehicle.

         [¶4] The day before the accident, on April 21, 2015, Barrowes and his co-driver, Dennis Pehrson, departed Tremonton, Utah in a semi tractor pulling two trailers to the Denver area. They left around 4:30 p.m., and Pehrson drove the entire stretch from Utah to Colorado, while Barrowes rested in the sleeper berth behind the driver's cabin.[1] This portion of the trip lasted until approximately 1:00 a.m. on the morning of April 22. During at least some of the time while Barrowes was to be resting in the sleeper portion of the tractor, the evidence indicated that he was sending and receiving text messages and possibly talking on the phone.

         [¶5] Barrowes left the sleeper berth at around 2:00 a.m., while the two were waiting to pick up the return load and return to Utah. Their freight[2] was ready to transport around 3:30 a.m. Barrowes took the wheel for the return trip to Tremonton, and Pehrson climbed into the sleeper berth.

         [¶6] Around 6:45 a.m., Barrowes stopped in the vicinity of Rawlins for an hour and forty-five minutes, but it is unclear what he did during that time. He then continued west on Interstate 80.

         [¶7] Forty-five minutes after he got back on the road, another professional truck driver operating a tractor-trailer behind Barrowes' truck observed the vehicle swerving "pretty bad at times" for around three miles over a period of three or four minutes. The vehicle was swerving so badly that the other truck driver did not pass and instead slowed down to keep some distance between the two rigs. He observed that every time Barrowes' truck would straighten up, it would soon start swerving again. The truck passed two exit ramps while the other driver observed its erratic movements. The rig was travelling around 65 miles an hour, below the posted limit on I-80.

         [¶8] Meanwhile, another truck had broken down earlier on the west-bound shoulder of I-80 near Wamsutter. The owner of the vehicle, Aleksandr Kozak, came to the scene to render assistance to the driver. The rig was properly parked on the right shoulder of the road, and its hazard lights were flashing. Emergency reflective triangles were placed along the road, and Kozak wore reflective clothing. The weather was good and visibility was clear, so there were no impediments to seeing the broken-down truck.

         [¶9] After swerving for three to four minutes, Barrowes' truck veered right at 65 miles per hour and crashed into the parked tractor-trailer rig. The truck struck Kozak as he was working on the truck and killed him. Pehrson, who was asleep in the sleeper berth, was thrown from his bunk when the side of the cab came apart. He suffered significant injuries that were not life-threatening. Barrowes did not hit the brakes or take any other type of evasive action before the crash because he was asleep at the wheel.

         [¶10] Shortly after the crash, a highway patrolman arrived on the scene. Barrowes told the trooper that he "did not manage [his] drowsiness appropriately." The trooper asked Barrowes if he fell asleep at the wheel, and Barrowes said he had.

         [¶11] Over two hours after the crash, Barrowes sent a text message stating: "I was rushing to get to Tremonton . . . . I should not have allowed my mind to be rushed." Barrowes told investigators of the Sweetwater County sheriff's office that he allowed scheduling to take precedence ...

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