from the District Court of Washakie County The Honorable
Robert E. Skar, Judge
Representing Appellant: Office of the State Public Defender:
Diane 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 M. Martens, Senior Assistant Attorney General;
Mackenzie Williams, Senior Assistant Attorney General.
Argument by Mr. Williams.
BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.
Appellant Anthony D. Haire shot and killed a man, but claimed
he did so in self-defense. He was charged with involuntary
manslaughter and reckless endangerment, and a jury found him
guilty on both counts. He raises two issues as to the jury
instructions on self-defense. First, he contends that the
district court erred in failing to give the jury a requested
castle doctrine instruction, which would have said that a
person has no duty to retreat in his home even if he could
safely do so. Second, Appellant asserts the district court
committed plain error when it gave an instruction informing
the jury that he had a duty to retreat before using deadly
Before considering Appellant's issues, we must first
address whether the justification of self-defense is
available when the crime charged involves a reckless act,
rather than an intentional act. We hold that it is, and
therefore must overrule our conclusion to the contrary in
Duran v. State, 990 P.2d 1005 (Wyo. 1999). While the
district court did not abuse its discretion in denying
Appellant's proposed castle doctrine instruction, we find
that plain error occurred when the jury was instructed that
Appellant had a duty to retreat before using deadly force. We
therefore reverse and remand for a new trial on the charge of
This Court has raised the first issue on its own initiative
because the answer to that question will determine whether it
is appropriate to consider the issues Appellant raised. We
have also rephrased the issues to better conform to the
applicable standards of review, controlling law, and
circumstances of this case:
1. Is the affirmative defense of self-defense available to a
defendant when the crime charged involves a reckless act,
rather than an intentional act?
2. Did the district court abuse its discretion when it
refused Appellant's proposed jury instruction that there
is no duty to retreat in one's home before using deadly
force in self-defense?
3. Did the district court commit plain error when it
instructed the jury that Appellant had a duty to retreat
before using deadly force in self-defense?
Appellant lived with his wife and three small children in a
mobile home in Worland, Wyoming. Their home was situated on a
piece of property owned by Jamye SoRelle. Mr. SoRelle also
lived in a mobile home on the property. The following
rendering sets the scene:
diagram depicts, the mobile homes were arranged around a
common parking area packed with numerous vehicles and with
only a single entrance/exit.
On the evening of April 13, 2015, Appellant was grilling
hamburgers in front of his mobile home with his family and a
friend, Judy Cable. Mr. SoRelle came to the cookout for a
time, but left abruptly for some reason. Later that evening,
Ms. Cable attempted to leave in her vehicle, but found that
she could not because Mr. SoRelle had parked his red
Suburban, which was hitched to a trailer, in front of the
driveway in and out of the property. Because she was blocked
in, Ms. Cable returned to the Haires' home for
Appellant walked over to Mr. SoRelle's home and knocked
on his door without receiving a response. Appellant then went
back to his place and called Mr. SoRelle. Mr. SoRelle
answered the call and indicated that he was upset that Ms.
Cable's car had been parked in his usual parking spot,
which is why he blocked it in.
After the call, Appellant, his wife, and Ms. Cable went
outside. The Haires' children remained inside their home.
Mr. SoRelle, who was apparently still upset and probably
drunk, appeared and walked towards the three. Appellant noticed
that Mr. SoRelle was holding a .41 magnum revolver in his
right hand as he approached.
Mr. SoRelle then shot his revolver into the ground near Mrs.
Haire and Ms. Cable, who were standing near Appellant. The
bullet's impact caused gravel to fly and hit Mrs.
Haire's legs. Appellant quickly ushered the women back
into his home.
Appellant did not follow the women into the home, however.
Instead, he ran to his Hyundai car that was parked nearby to
retrieve a semiautomatic pistol. See diagram,
supra. He then positioned himself behind a white
Suburban parked next to his car. In the time that it took
Appellant to get his gun, Mr. SoRelle made his way to his red
Suburban that was blocking the driveway. See id. The
two were now in a standoff in the common parking area of the
property with a distance of roughly twenty-five feet between
According to Appellant, the two began yelling at each
other. Haire asked whether SoRelle was going to
move the obstructing vehicle. He testified that he then saw a
glimmer from SoRelle's revolver as SoRelle raised his
arm. At that point, Haire testified that he took aim and
fired one shot. SoRelle again raised his revolver, and Haire
began firing, emptying the magazine of the remaining eleven
rounds. Nine of the twelve bullets fired hit SoRelle,
mortally wounding him.
A neighbor testified that she heard one initial shot followed
by a significant break before the other succession of shots
were fired. However, Haire's wife testified that
she heard two shots, then a slight pause, and then the
remaining shots in rapid succession.
After the shooting stopped, Mrs. Haire came outside and saw
Appellant standing with his pistol in hand. He told her to
call 911. Appellant then approached Mr. SoRelle and removed
the revolver from his hand and placed it on the hood of a
vehicle a safe distance away.
Police and paramedics arrived shortly thereafter. Mr. SoRelle
died at the scene with the keys to his red Suburban laying
next to his body. Appellant was taken into custody by law
The county attorney charged Appellant with involuntary
manslaughter and reckless endangerment. The involuntary
manslaughter statute states in pertinent part:
a) A person is guilty of manslaughter if he unlawfully kills
any human being without malice, expressed or implied, either:
* * *
(ii) Involuntarily, but recklessly ....
Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-2-105(a)(ii) (LexisNexis 2015).
"Recklessly" is statutorily defined as follows:
A person acts recklessly when he consciously disregards a
substantial and unjustifiable risk that the harm he is
accused of causing will occur, and the harm results. The risk
shall be of such nature and degree that disregarding it
constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of conduct
that a reasonable person would observe in the situation[.]
Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-l-104(ix) (LexisNexis 2015).
Appellant pled not guilty to the charges and was tried eight
Appellant's theory of the case was that he killed Mr.
SoRelle in self-defense. The district court provided the jury
with the following instructions reflecting his theory:
Jury Instruction No. 15.1
Self-defense is an issue in this case. The burden is on the
State to prove that the defendant did not act in
self-defense. Unless the State proves beyond a reasonable
doubt that the defendant did not act in self-defense, you
shall find the defendant not guilty of the crime of
Jury Instruction No. 27
Anthony Haire's theory of the case is that Anthony Haire
had reasonable grounds to believe and actually did believe
that he, his family or guest was [sic] in imminent danger of
death or serious bodily harm from which Anthony Haire or his
family could be saved only by using deadly force against the
aggressor. It is further Anthony Haire's contention that
at no time was he the aggressor. If you find that Anthony
Haire acted in self-defense of himself, his family or guest,
and after consideration of all the evidence and all the jury
instructions, then you should find him not guilty.
The district court also provided additional
instructions on the law of self-defense, which we
summarize for the sake of brevity:
• Explanation of justifiable homicide in self-defense
when there are reasonable grounds to believe there is
imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm;
• The right to arm to resist attack where there are
reasonable grounds to believe that another will attack with
such force as to endanger life or cause serious bodily
• Even if there are reasonable grounds to believe there
is imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm, a person
must try to retreat rather than to take the life of the
adversary if there was a convenient mode of retreat without
increasing actual or apparent peril;
• The right of self-defense ends when the danger ceases;
• Self-defense is not a justification after an adversary
• Use of reasonable force is justified to defend another
person against an attack by an aggressor when the person has
reasonable grounds to believe that the other person is in
imminent danger of harm;
• A person is considered an aggressor when there is some
sort of physical aggression or threat of imminent use of
• The right of self-defense is not available to an
aggressor who provokes the conflict, unless the aggressor
withdraws in good faith and informs the other person by words
or actions that he desires to end the conflict and is
Appellant proposed an instruction on the castle doctrine,
claiming that he had an absolute right to stand his ground
and was under no obligation to retreat even if he could
safely have done so. See infra ¶ 26. The
district court rejected the instruction because it concluded
that the circumstances did not warrant it. The court also