from the District Court of Natrona County The Honorable
Daniel L. Forgey, 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; Joshua
C. Eames, Assistant Attorney General; Darrell D. Jackson,
Faculty Director, K.T. Farrelly, Student Director, and
Kristine A. Kennedy, Student Intern, Prosecution Assistance
Program. Argument by Ms. Kennedy.
BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.
A jury found William Allan Garland guilty of one count of
domestic battery and one count of strangulation of a
household member for attacking his girlfriend (hereinafter
referred to as "the victim"). He claims the
district court violated his constitutional right of
confrontation when it refused testimony about the
victim's prior relationship from the sister of the
victim's former boyfriend. We conclude that the district
court correctly excluded the testimony and, therefore,
Mr. Garland presents the following issue on appeal:
Was William Garland denied due process of law when the trial
court denied him the opportunity to effectively confront the
complaining witness as to previously filing false reports of
State phrases the issue as:
The Wyoming Rules of Evidence generally exclude testimony
regarding a witness's character, other wrongs, or acts
absent specific circumstances. [Mr.] Garland sought to
introduce testimony that his victim previously had violent
quarrels with a different boyfriend and had falsely accused
that previous boyfriend of physical abuse. Did the trial
court commit plain error when it granted the State's
motion to exclude that testimony?
Mr. Garland and the victim were involved in an on-and-off
relationship for several years. On September 28, 2015, the
victim's father reported to the Casper Police Department
that Mr. Garland had assaulted his daughter the previous
night. In response, Casper Police Officer Jeremiah Tipton
contacted the victim at the apartment she shared with Mr.
Garland. The officer noticed a toppled chair and other
physical damage to the apartment. The victim told Officer
Tipton that she and Mr. Garland had argued the night before
and he had attacked her. She ran into a bedroom and locked
the door, but Mr. Garland kicked it open. The victim said
that she tried to sit down at the kitchen table to calm down,
but Mr. Garland pushed her over. He straddled her and
squeezed her neck with both hands until she passed out.
Officer Tipton documented injuries to the victim's lips,
a scratch on the right side of her neck and an abrasion on
the back of her neck.
The victim telephoned Officer Tipton the next day and
"wanted to take her story back." She claimed the
injuries to her neck were from consensual "erotica
asphyxiation during rough sex" and she had damaged the
apartment herself because she was jealous. The State charged
Mr. Garland with domestic battery in violation of Wyo. Stat.
Ann. § 6-2-511(a) (LexisNexis 2017) and strangulation of
a household member in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. §
6-2-509(a)(i) (LexisNexis 2017). At trial, the victim
testified consistent with her original report to Officer
Tipton and stated that her recantation was untrue.
Prior to the trial, Mr. Garland gave notice that he intended
to call Mary Allen, the sister of the victim's former
boyfriend, as a witness. The State filed a motion in limine
to preclude Ms. Allen's testimony, claiming it was
irrelevant to the case and inadmissible character evidence
under Wyoming Rule of Evidence 404. The motion stated that
the defense had produced a disc with a recording of Ms.
Allen's proposed testimony. The victim had apparently
lived with the boyfriend, Ms. Allen, and other relatives in
California several years before. The motion in limine stated,
"[i]t appears that the defense intends to call Ms. Allen
to show that the alleged victim was temperamental with her
brother, and she yelled at him and on three occasions
attempted to hit her brother, but the blows were blocked, and
that she might have thrown things or knocked things
The district court did not hold a pretrial hearing on the
State's motion. Instead, it heard arguments on the
admissibility of Ms. Allen's proposed testimony on the
second day of trial, just prior to presentation of the
defense's case. Defense counsel argued that Ms.
Allen's testimony was admissible under W.R.E. 404(a)(2)
as evidence of a pertinent character trait of the victim
offered by the accused because it demonstrated "she can
be temperamental, " and under Rule 404(b) to show
absence of mistake or accident, intent, opportunity, and/or
The district court stated that it did not have "much of
an idea of what we're talking about here" and asked
Mr. Garland's counsel for an offer of proof of Ms.
Allen's testimony. Defense counsel stated that, around 2009,
the victim lived with Ms. Allen and her family for about a
year while she was dating Ms. Allen's brother. The
defense stated that Ms. Allen would testify she had witnessed
arguments between her brother and the victim, including
details about "whether there was anything physical that
happened during the arguments, who basically started the
arguments, and . . . whether any objects were thrown or
flying." Defense counsel added: "I believe [the
victim] had also made claims that her boyfriend at the time
was physically abusive to her."
The district court granted the State's motion in limine.
It found that the evidence did not fall under either W.R.E.
404(a) or (b). The district court also ruled that the
probative value "would seem to be substantially
outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice and other
concerns listed under Rule 403." It said the defense was
free to renew the request to present Ms. Allen's
testimony if evidence developed in the defense's case
warranting reconsideration of the issue.
Although the defense did not ask for reconsideration of its
ruling, the district court sua sponte added to its
rationale for granting the motion in limine later in the
trial. It noted that the proffered testimony did not pertain
to the relationship between the victim and Mr. Garland and
the time period Ms. Allen would testify about was
"pretty remote" from the incident at issue. The
court concluded that "[t]he proponent of the evidence,
the defense, has not convinced me at this time that the
proposed testimony of the witness Allen would be admissible
under the rule cited, including Rule 404(a), Rule 404(b), or
The jury found Mr. Garland guilty on both counts. The
district court sentenced him, and he filed a timely notice of
appeal to this Court.
Mr. Garland argues that the district court violated his right
to confrontation when it granted the State's motion in
limine, denying him the opportunity to present Ms.
Allen's testimony. When an issue regarding the
admissibility of evidence is presented to the district court,
we generally review its decision for abuse of discretion.
Broussard v. State, 2017 WY 73, ¶ 8, 396 P.3d
1016, 1020 (Wyo. 2017); Griggs v. State, 2016 WY 16,
¶ 129, 367 P.3d 1108, 1143 (Wyo. 2016).
However, the State argues that we should apply the plain
error standard of review because the district court's
decision was not definitive, and Mr. Garland did not preserve
the error by renewing his request for admission of Ms.
Allen's testimony. The district court granted the
State's motion in limine stating that, based on the offer
of proof, the evidence was not admissible under Rule 404 or
403. It continued by saying:
[I]f Mr. Garland testifies . . . [t]hat proposed testimony
could become more relevant depending on what he testifies to
. . . .
And so what I'll tell you is that we can revisit that
issue if you feel that other evidence that is developed in
the defense's case warrants a reconsideration of that
proposed evidence from Ms. Allen, and I'll take another
look at it. But as we sit here now at the end of the
State's case, I'm struggling to find a way that it
would be very probative of . . . the things . . . that have
been argued to me and the rules that have been ...