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Dockter v. State

Supreme Court of Wyoming

June 1, 2017

CHAD DOCKTER, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Plaintiff).

         Appeal from the District Court of Laramie County The Honorable Thomas T.C. Campbell, Judge

          Representing Appellant: Office of the State Public Defender: Diane Lozano, State Public Defender; Tina N. Olson, Chief Appellate Counsel; Eric M. Alden, Senior Assistant Public Defender. 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. Argument by Mr. Delicath.

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

          DAVIS, Justice.

         [¶1] Appellant Chad Dockter challenges two of several convictions arising out of a violent incident with his former girlfriend. He claims the evidence presented by the State was insufficient to support his convictions of kidnapping and misdemeanor theft of a cell phone. We affirm.

         ISSUES

         [¶2] 1. Was the evidence sufficient to establish that Appellant unlawfully confined the victim as required by the kidnapping statute, Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-2-201(a) (LexisNexis 2015)?

         2. Did the evidence sufficiently establish misdemeanor theft of an Apple iPhone 5?

         FACTS

         [¶3] Viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the State and resolving any evidentiary conflicts in its favor, see Barrowes v. State, 2017 WY 23, ¶ 3, 390 P.3d 1126, 1126 (Wyo. 2017), the pertinent facts established at trial are as follows. Appellant and the victim Amanda Yearsley dated for six months before Ms. Yearsley ended the relationship in May 2015. Ms. Yearsly then met with Appellant to inform him that she was pregnant in July of 2015. After that, the two communicated sporadically through early August 2015.

         [¶4] On August 14, 2015, Ms. Yearsley was at a bar where she worked, although she was not on duty, when Appellant showed up. He stopped by to repay some money he owed her, and wanted to talk, but eventually he started to cause a scene. Because of his belligerent behavior, Ms. Yearsley suggested that they take the conversation back to her place. While they were at Ms. Yearsley's apartment, she used a smartphone, an iPhone 6, that Appellant had given her daughter. This apparently annoyed Appellant, so he snatched it from her and left. After Appellant departed with her cell phone, Ms. Yearsley called the police to report it, but she declined to pursue charges.

         [¶5] The next day, August 15, Ms. Yearsley activated her old iPhone 5. Later that day, while she was in the shower getting ready for work, the shower curtain swung open, and there was Appellant. He grabbed her by the throat, and took her out of the shower and into the bedroom. As she started to scream, he placed his other hand over her nose and mouth. Once in the bedroom, Appellant put Ms. Yearsley on the bed and told her she needed to listen to him and that she had no choice but to do so. She continued to squirm and scream, and Appellant body-slammed her onto the ground with one hand still on her throat and the other over her nose and mouth. Ms. Yearsley struggled to breathe and almost blacked out, which caused her to become still. Appellant then removed his hands and let her sit up.

         [¶6] Once free from Appellant's grasp, Ms. Yearsley ran to the bathroom and turned off the shower. She picked up a piece of the shower rod that had fallen on the floor and tried to defend herself with it. It was no use, however, as Appellant followed her to the bathroom and was able to pick her up in a "bear hug." However, she managed to grab her reactivated iPhone 5 from the bathroom counter before Appellant carried her out to the living room.

         [¶7] Once in the living room, Appellant sat down on the couch with Ms. Yearsley on his lap, still clenched in a bear hug. Appellant told her how much he loved her and that she just needed to listen to him. Unbeknownst to him, Ms. Yearsley had succeeded in dialing 911 and hitting send. When a dispatcher answered the 911 call, Appellant discovered what she had done. He grabbed the phone, punched Ms. Yearsley in the thigh, exited through the front door, and took off in his car. Ms. Yearsley ran outside after him, but because she was still naked, she returned to the house and called 911 from her house land line. Law enforcement officers arrived soon thereafter.

         [¶8] Appellant was charged, inter alia, with kidnapping with voluntary release in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-2-201, [1] and the Information specifically alleged that he unlawfully confined Yearsley with the intent to inflict bodily injury on or to terrorize her. He was also charged with misdemeanor theft in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-3-402.[2]A jury found Appellant guilty on those counts, among others. The district court sentenced him to eight to twelve years for kidnapping and six months for misdemeanor theft.[3]

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         [¶9] Appellant challenges the sufficiency of evidence to support two of his convictions. "When reviewing a sufficiency of the evidence claim, we must accept as true the State's evidence and give it the benefit of all reasonable inferences which can be drawn from it." Barrowes, ¶ 15, 390 P.3d at 1128. We do not consider contradictory evidence presented by Appellant. Id. We will neither reweigh the evidence nor substitute our judgment for that of the jury, as our task is solely to determine whether a jury could have reasonably concluded that each of the elements of the crime was proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Id.

         DISCUSSION

         Kidnapping

         [¶10] Appellant contends that his conduct did not amount to kidnapping. Specifically, he claims that the evidence was insufficient to establish confinement as required by Wyoming's kidnapping statute. After studying the statute and consulting controlling case law, we must disagree.

         [¶11] To find the answer to this question, we must examine Wyoming's kidnapping statute and apply our usual principles of statutory interpretation. Criminal statutes must be strictly construed and are not to be enlarged by implication or extended by inference or construction. Bohling v. State, 2017 WY 7, ΒΆ 18, 388 P.3d 502, 505-06 (Wyo. 2017). Our chief consideration is ...


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