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Woods v. State

Supreme Court of Wyoming

September 20, 2017

CLINTON RAY WOODS, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Plaintiff).

         Appeal from the District Court of Laramie County The Honorable Steven K. Sharpe, Judge.

          Representing Appellant: Timothy C. Kingston of the Law Office of Tim Kingston, LLC, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

          Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Attorney General; David L. Delicath, Deputy Attorney General; Christyne Martens, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Caitlin F. Harper, Assistant Attorney General. Argument by Ms. Harper.

          Before BURKE, C.J., and HILL, FOX, KAUTZ, JJ., and KRICKEN, D.J.

          KRICKEN, DISTRICT JUDGE.

         [¶1] Clinton Ray Woods (Woods) was convicted by a jury of three counts of Sexual Abuse of a Minor in the Second Degree, in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-2-315(a)(i) (LexisNexis 2013), and one count of Sexual Abuse of a Minor in the Third Degree, in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-2-316(a)(i), for his sexual abuse of the fourteen-year-old daughter of his girlfriend. He now appeals, claiming that his trial counsel was ineffective in multiple ways and further asserting that the district court committed reversible error. We affirm.

         ISSUES

         [¶2] In his appeal, Woods presents the following issues:

1. Did the Appellant's attorney provide the Appellant ineffective assistance of counsel?
2. Was it deficient performance for the Appellant's attorney to play a forensic interview video of the alleged victim to the jury?
3. Was it deficient performance for the Appellant's attorney not to object to numerous instances of hearsay?
4. Was it deficient performance for the Appellant's attorney not to ask for a limiting expert witness instruction?
5. Was it deficient performance for the Appellant's attorney not to object to admission of the testimony of the state's expert witness?
6. Did the Appellant's attorney's numerous instances of deficient performance prejudice the Appellant?
7. Did the trial court commit reversible error when it failed in its gate keeping function in allowing the state's expert to testify without determining if he should be allowed to testify?
8. Did the trial court commit reversible error when it did not give a limiting expert witness instruction?

         FACTS

         [¶3] Although originally charged with additional felony counts, on July 12, 2016, Woods proceeded to a jury trial on three counts of Sexual Abuse of a Minor in the Second Degree, in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-2-315(a)(i), and one count of Sexual Abuse of a Minor in the Third Degree, in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-2-316(a)(i). The allegations underlying the charges were that Woods had engaged in sexual activity on several occasions with D.O., the fourteen-year-old daughter of his girlfriend, Angel King, some of which was joined in and condoned by King.

         [¶4] Ultimately, on November 6, 2014, law enforcement was dispatched to King's home on the report of a domestic disturbance. King told the officer that she had gotten into a fight with Woods and punched him, stating "[h]e's not going to do to my daughter what's been done to me." D.O. denied any improper conduct on Woods' part when the officer so inquired. However, after the officer left, D.O. told her brother that Woods had been sexually abusing her. While at her father's home the following weekend, D.O. also told her father of the abuse. D.O.'s father took D.O. to an attorney's office in Cheyenne, to whom he and D.O. disclosed the sexual abuse. The attorney contacted law enforcement, who initiated the investigation that culminated in the criminal charges and jury trial.

         [¶5] Woods' defense at trial - that he had not committed any of the accused conduct -was based on the lack of corroborating physical evidence and on D.O.'s inconsistent versions of the alleged events. Because the only evidence of the alleged sexual abuse was D.O.'s story, Woods' trial strategy was to challenge her credibility. At trial, the State of Wyoming and defense counsel agreed that the jury should view the video of a pretrial forensic interview conducted with D.O. The State sought to introduce the video to demonstrate D.O.'s prior consistent statements, while Woods believed the video demonstrated D.O.'s prior inconsistent statements that would result in the jury concluding she had lied. The district court expressed its concerns, engaging in the following colloquy with defense counsel:

THE COURT: The Court spent the lunch hour thinking about the video issue. And the last time something like this happened, it resulted in a conviction being reversed, and the matter being remanded to me for a hearing on whether the playing of that video in a child sexual abuse case, forensic interview, was ineffective assistance of counsel. And the Court ultimately determined that it was in that case.
I understand in this case the parties have stipulated to the use of the videos. From the State's standpoint, my understanding would be that the State would contend that the video is admissible under Rule 801 as a prior consistent statement.
The defendant wants portions of the video played to argue that it is a prior inconsistent statement; is that correct?
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: It is from my point of view, Your Honor. And just to clarify, there are things that were part of the video that referred to the Court's prior ruling on BDSM activities. And there [is] also a part of the video that discusses photographs which he was charged with, which he's now not charged with. And those portions of the video have been redacted.
I think it is relevant to my case. I had talked to [the prosecuting attorney] about playing the video in another ma[tt]er. And then last night he decided that he wanted it, too. So that's how we have come to this stipulation.
THE COURT: All right. I think it is important to make a record of what your strategy is and what your tactics are, [defense counsel], in playing the video. Have you had a chance to discuss the issue with your client?
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Yes. I discussed this issue with my client last night at length and again over the noon hour. And because most specifically as to her testimony and prior statements about the anal rape, the most important part for me. But I think as the jury views the video, they're going to be able to judge her credibility here in court better, given that that interview was given shortly after the incident, and now how she remembers things and how inconsistent the testimony is across the board.
So my client consents to it. And it is my belief, based on my experience as a trial attorney, that this is the most prudent way to proceed.
THE COURT: All right. Very well. But you have visited with Mr. Woods about this issue?
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Yes.
THE COURT: I guess the concern that the Court has is that essentially by playing that video again, you're allowing the alleged victim in this case a second opportunity to ...

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