KALEY ADDISON, as Personal Representative for the Estate of Scott Alan Addison, Appellant (Petitioner),
ALBANY COUNTY, WYOMING, Appellee (Respondent).
from the District Court of Albany County The Honorable Tori
R.A. Kricken, Judge.
Representing Appellant: Vaughn Neubauer, Neubauer, Pelkey,
Merseal, & Goldfinger, LLP, Laramie, Wyoming.
Representing Appellee: Edward Britzius, Albany County
Attorney's Office, Laramie, Wyoming.
DAVIS, C.J., and BURKE [*] , FOX, KAUTZ, and BOOMGAARDEN, JJ.
Scott Alan Addison died prior to his criminal trial, while
subject to a warrant for his arrest for violation of his bond
conditions. His daughter, Kaley Addison, appeals the district
court's order affirming the forfeiture of Mr.
Addison's $50, 000 cash bond, claiming the doctrine of
abatement ab initio applies to the bond forfeiture
proceeding. We affirm.
Ms. Addison raises a single issue, which we restate: Does the
doctrine of abatement ab initio apply to Mr.
Addison's bond forfeiture proceeding?
Appellant Kaley Addison's father, defendant Scott
Addison, died December 6, 2017, in an armed confrontation
with police in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Mr. Addison died the day
after the State filed a motion to revoke his bond and the
district court issued a warrant for his arrest, and five days
prior to his scheduled criminal trial in Albany County,
Wyoming. In March 2017, the State charged Mr. Addison with 25
felony counts: one count of first degree sexual assault, one
count of blackmail, two counts of attempted blackmail, one
count of felonious restraint, and twenty counts of sexual
exploitation of a child. At the time of his death, Mr.
Addison was free on a $50, 000 cash appearance bond, which,
among other things, limited his travel to Albany and Laramie
counties, and prohibited his use of alcohol or controlled
Following Mr. Addison's death, the district court, on the
State's motion, ordered Mr. Addison's $50, 000 cash
appearance bond forfeited to the State of Wyoming. Shortly
thereafter, Kaley Addison filed an objection to the
forfeiture order as Mr. Addison's heir, and requested
that the district court either set aside the forfeiture order
or stay the forfeiture pending appeal. The district court
held a hearing during which it received evidence and heard
argument regarding bond forfeiture. After the hearing, Mr.
Addison's counsel, on behalf of Mr. Addison's estate,
filed a motion for abatement ab initio of Mr.
Addison's case, including the bond forfeiture order. The
district court entered its order affirming forfeiture of Mr.
Addison's bond on January 17, 2018. In affirming the bond
forfeiture, the district court, inter alia, applied
Wyoming Rules of Criminal Procedure 46-46.4 and the seven
factors set forth in In re Nw. Bail Bonds, Inc.,
2002 WY 102, ¶ 10, 50 P.3d 313, 315-16 (Wyo. 2002)
(citing Application of Allied Fid. Ins. Co., 664
P.2d 1322, 1325-26 (Wyo. 1983)) to evaluate whether a bond
forfeiture should be set aside, and also considered whether
the forfeiture proceeding abated with Mr. Addison's
death. Kaley Addison timely appealed the district court's
order only as to the court's ruling on the abatement
We review de novo the district court's legal conclusion
that the doctrine of abatement ab initio does not
apply to bond forfeiture proceedings. Boucher v.
State, 2012 WY 145, ¶ 6, 288 P.3d 427, 429 (Wyo.
2012) (citation omitted) (when we are asked to determine
whether a court applied the correct rule of law, our review
is de novo). Ms. Addison cites State v. Free, 37
Wyo. 188, 260 P. 173 (1927) and Perry v. State, 821
P.2d 1284 (Wyo. 1992) in support of her argument that Wyoming
has followed the doctrine of abatement ab initio
since 1927 and the district court erred when it held that the
doctrine of abatement ab initio no longer applies in
Wyoming. According to Ms. Addison, stare decisis requires
that we apply that doctrine in this case. She cautions us
against departing from settled precedent and emphasizes
language from Cook v. State, 841 P.2d 1345, 1353
(Wyo. 1992) that "[s]tare decisis
considerations weigh most heavily in cases involving property
and contract rights." Ms. Addison fails to acknowledge,
however, that this court has only applied the abatement
ab initio doctrine to abate a judgment of conviction
and all proceedings under such judgment when a criminal
defendant died while his appeal was pending and prior to the
issuance of this Court's opinion in the appeal.
Free, supra; Perry,
supra. We have never applied the doctrine to a bond
forfeiture proceeding or any proceeding when the defendant
died prior to trial. Consequently, whether the doctrine
applies under the circumstances of this case is a question of
first impression untethered to principles of stare decisis.
The doctrine of abatement ab initio is a common law
doctrine in which criminal proceedings are deemed nullified
from the beginning for reasons unrelated to the merits of the
action. See Free, 260 P. 173; United States v.
Davis, 953 F.2d 1482, 1486 (10th Cir. 1992);
United States v. Brooks, 872 F.3d 78, 87 (2d Cir.
2017). Application of the doctrine "leaves the deceased
defendant 'as if he had never been indicted or
convicted'" as to any counts on which a conviction
has not yet become final. Brooks, 872 F.3d at 87. A
cornerstone of this doctrine is the abatement of a judgment
of conviction, in "the interests of finality and just
punishment." Id.; see also Free,
supra, ("[t]he underlying principle is that the
object of all criminal punishment is to punish the one who
committed the crime or offense, and not to punish those upon
whom his estate is cast, by operation of law or
otherwise."). "Finality requires that 'a
defendant not stand convicted without resolution of the
merits of an appeal', and recognition of the purposes of