BRENT U. WALL, Appellant (Defendant),
THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Plaintiff).
from the District Court of Uinta County The Honorable Joseph
B. Bluemel, Judge
Representing Appellant: Donna D. Domonkos, Domonkos Law
Office, LLC, Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney
General; Christyne M. Martens, Deputy Attorney General;
Caitlin F. Harper, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Sam
Williams, Assistant Attorney General. Argument by Mr.
DAVIS, C.J., and FOX, KAUTZ, BOOMGAARDEN, and GRAY, JJ.
Brent Wall was convicted of one count of first degree sexual
assault of a minor. On appeal he claims that his right to be
present at every stage of the trial was violated and that he
was denied effective assistance of counsel. We find no
reversible error and affirm.
Mr. Wall presents two issues on appeal, which we restate as:
1. Did the district court commit reversible error when it
responded to a juror note expressing confusion over DNA
testimony without informing either party of the juror note
and the court's response to it?
2. Was Mr. Wall's right to effective assistance of
counsel denied: a) by trial counsel's conflict of
interest; and b) when trial counsel did not adequately pursue
a theory of intentional secondary DNA transfer?
MW is the biological daughter of Sandra Bell-Wall and Brent
Wall, the defendant in this case. Ms. Bell-Wall and Mr. Wall
divorced in 2000, and Ms. Bell-Wall was given primary custody
of MW, who was then about two, and her three-year-old sister
CW. MW lived with her mother, sister, and half-brother in
Urie, Wyoming, until December 2012.
In 2012, MW was fourteen and had engaged in a number of
troubling behaviors, including the use of fake social media
profiles to lure classmates into conversations (also known as
catfishing), sexually explicit conversations, falsely
accusing family members of hurting her, committing self-harm
by cutting her arms and torso, and generally being
rebellious. When MW threatened to commit suicide, MW, her
mother, and her father and stepmother, Arlee Wall, met with a
counselor. It was decided that MW would move to Evanston,
Wyoming to live with her father and stepmother and their two
After MW moved in with her father and stepmother, her
behavioral issues abated. In the fall of 2014, however, when
she was sixteen years old, she wrecked her car, and after
that her grades dropped and her troubling behaviors
resurfaced. In early 2015, her grades were continuing to
drop, and she had a boyfriend and best friend that her
stepmother believed were negative influences. She began
catfishing again, and she included in one of her profiles a
fake obituary for her little sister. After her own electronic
devices were taken from her, she stole electronic devices
from her father and stepmother to use for catfishing, and
when she was confronted with the theft, she first blamed her
young half-sister and then destroyed the devices. In
February, she altered and attempted to cash two checks
written by her stepmother to her school for lunches.
As discipline for these behaviors, MW had her activities and
privileges restricted, and she was required to do chores to
earn enough money to pay for the destroyed electronic
devices. She was also homeschooled and restricted to her
bedroom when not performing chores. All items were removed
from her bedroom except her bed, a blanket, a desk, and a
bible. She was required to wear shorts and a tank top so her
father and stepmother could see if she was cutting herself.
On March 1, 2015, MW's biological mother and sister came
for a visit that lasted until about 1:30 that afternoon.
After the visit, Ms. Bell-Wall expressed concern that MW
seemed sad, and Mr. Wall assured her that MW's
restrictions would soon be lifted. Later that afternoon, at
about 2:30 p.m., MW's stepmother left to run errands. She
arrived back home at about 4:00 and testified that the
following then occurred:
Q. Now, when you got back, did you have a conversation with
A. I did.
Q. And do you recall that?
A. I do.
Q. And what was that conversation?
A. I was hugging her.
She was crying. I thought she was crying because of the
I told her, "It's almost over. I know it's
And she says, "You don't know how hard it is."
And I told her, "I do."
And then she told me, "While you were gone, dad made me
give him a blowjob."
Q. And how did you react to that?
A. I was shocked that she could even say that.
I stepped back and I looked at her. And she said, "He
did. He said you wouldn't believe me, but he did it and I
can prove it."
Q. And what did you do?
A. I just - I shook my head and I grabbed a load of groceries
and I went in the house.
Brent was sitting on the couch with the two kids when I
walked in. And then I went back out for more groceries. She -
Q. And did [MW] bring groceries in or not?
A. Well, she was waiting for me at the car.
Q. And then did you have any more conversation?
A. Yeah. She - she told me that, "He blew it in my mouth
and I can prove it."
And I told her, "The mouth cleans itself. Don't you
And she goes, "But it's there. I haven't ate or
drank anything since he did it."
And, I just - I shook my head, and she grabbed a load and
followed me into the house.
And Brent asked me what was going on. He could tell that I
was angry on my first trip.
And I told him - I just shook my head when he asked me. And I
looked at [MK] and I says, "Tell him."
And she gave him a play by play. She told him everything that
he had done.
And by that time, it had turned into a second blowjob, in the
And I asked her, I says, "Why are you giving him a play
by play? Wasn't he there?"
Mr. Wall then called Ms. Bell-Wall, informed her of what MW
was saying, and told her to come and get MW. Ms. Bell-Wall
testified that she did not immediately believe MW's
allegations, and so when she picked her up, she did not take
her to the hospital. She instead bought her a bottle of water
and a Dr. Pepper and returned to Mountain View. Ms. Bell-Wall
eventually decided to take MW to the hospital in Evanston,
and they arrived there at about 10:20 the evening of March
The hospital contacted law enforcement, and Sergeant Randall
Chandler of the Uinta County Sheriff's Office responded
and took MW's statement, which he recorded. MW reported
that she was doing chores in the garage when her father came
into the garage and told her to retrieve a battery charger
from his bedroom so he could return it to the garage shelf
where it belonged. When she went to the bedroom, her father
followed her and asked if she was ready to hear what she had
to do to have her restrictions lifted. MW reported that when
she said yes, the following occurred:
And so he pulls out this piece of paper and he says, "I
wrote them down."
And I made a joke. And I was, like, "Hah. You took
And he said, "Yeah."
And then he listed them off. One of them said, "Your
grades have to be average or better."
And I said, "Okay."
And then he said, "The garage will be finished."
And I said, "Okay."
And then he said, "And you will look in the mirror that
I have in my bedroom, and you will find something that you
like about yourself every day. Not just that you like, but
that you find sexy."
And I said, "Okay."
And then he folded the piece of paper up and he put it in his
pocket again, and he said, "And this last one is going
to be hard for you and for me. You can think of it as a
punishment, or you can not think of it as a punishment. You
can think of it as a . . . how to please a man in the right
way for the rest of your life."
He said, "From this day forward, you are my sex
MW reported Mr. Wall thereafter forced her to remove her
clothing and perform oral sex on him. She also reported that
while they were in the bedroom, he vaginally penetrated her
with a glass dildo and anally penetrated her with his penis.
He then ejaculated into her mouth and gave her wipes with
instructions to clean herself up and return to the garage. MW
reported that after she returned to the garage and resumed
her work, Mr. Wall came into the garage and again forced her
to perform oral sex on him until he ejaculated.
MW reported that she experienced pain and bleeding from the
anal intercourse, that ejaculate dripped onto the bedroom
floor, and that when ejaculate got on her hand in the garage
she wiped it on her pants. She also reported that during oral
sex she observed an ingrown hair next to Mr. Wall's
After her interview with Sergeant Chandler, MW underwent a
sexual assault examination. The physical examination of MW
revealed no labial, vaginal, or anal injuries. Oral, labial,
vaginal, and anal swabs were taken and provided to law
enforcement, along with MW's clothing.
Deputy James Schmidt of the Uinta County Sheriff's Office
took over as lead investigator of MW's charges after
Sergeant Chandler's initial interview of her. On March 2,
2015, he obtained a search warrant and with another officer
searched Mr. Wall's residence. During that search, they
seized samples from the master bedroom carpet, a couple of
tubes of personal lubricant, and two glass dildos. They took
photos of the bed and a nightstand and its contents, and they
also took a photo of Mr. Wall's groin area, which showed
an ingrown hair. Later in March, they returned with a second
search warrant for Mr. Wall's DNA, which they obtained
using a buccal swab.
The items and samples obtained from Mr. Wall, his home, and
MW were sent to the Wyoming State Crime Lab for testing. The
crime lab generally performs different types of testing
including both serology testing, which is testing for bodily
fluids such as blood, semen, saliva, or urine, and DNA
testing. The DNA testing it performs consists of two types,
Y-STR (Y chromosome-short tandem repeat profile) and
autosomal testing. Christina Buettner, the lab's DNA
technical leader, testified that autosomal DNA is "the
typical total human DNA that you think of when you hear about
DNA analysis." As to Y-STR testing, she testified:
A. We perform a quantitation step that tells us how much DNA
is present in a sample. And part of that step also tells us
how much male DNA is present in the sample.
If we have a sample that has a very low amount of male DNA in
comparison to a high amount of total DNA, so probably a lot
of female DNA is present, we will use Y-STR technology on
that to target the small amount of male DNA that's
Q. Why would that be an effective mechanism in sexual assault
A. In sexual assault cases - in typical sexual assault cases,
where the victim is female and typically a suspect is male,
there's generally a large amount of victim DNA,
especially on intimate samples like vaginal swabs or samples
taken directly from the victim's body, in relation to a
small amount of male DNA from a perpetrator.
The lab performed autosomal testing on the glass dildos
obtained from Mr. Wall's residence. That testing found
that MW's DNA was not consistent with the DNA found on
the items and excluded her as a DNA contributor, meaning her
DNA was not present on either dildo.
When it tested the oral, labial, vaginal, and anal swabs for
DNA, the lab began by testing the samples for their ratio of
male DNA to total human DNA to determine whether autosomal or
Y-STR testing would be appropriate. That ratio testing showed
no male DNA in the vaginal or anal samples, and therefore no
further analysis was performed on those samples. The ratio
testing on the oral swab showed a ratio of one part male for
every one hundred parts human DNA, and the testing on the
labial swab showed one part male for every 28, 000 parts
human DNA. Because of the small amount of male DNA present,
the lab performed Y-STR testing on the oral and labial
The Y-STR testing on the oral sample yielded a DNA profile
that was consistent with Mr. Wall's profile. The lab also
considered the statistical rarity of the DNA profile
obtained, and found that it was estimated to occur in one in
every 1, 190 individuals. The Y-STR testing on the labial
sample produced only a partial profile, which identified only
two of twenty-seven locations on the Y-chromosome. That
partial profile was consistent with Mr. Wall's DNA
profile but was also quite common and was estimated to occur
in one in every fifteen individuals. Ms. Buettner explained:
A. A partial DNA sample or partial DNA profile is when we
obtain a pretty weak result.
So we - we test for 20 something different locations on the Y
And a full profile would be a result at all of those
locations. A partial profile is when we obtain results at