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Barrowes v. State

Supreme Court of Wyoming

January 18, 2019

EDWARD CHRISTOPHER BARROWES, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Plaintiff).

          Appeal from the District Court of Sweetwater County The Honorable Nena James, Judge

          Representing Appellant: Office of the State Public Defender: Diane Lozano, Wyoming State Public Defender; Kirk A. Morgan, Chief Appellate Counsel

          Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney General; Christyne M. Martens, Deputy Attorney General; Caitlin F. Harper, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Jessica Frint, Senior Assistant Attorney General

          Before DAVIS, C.J., and FOX, KAUTZ, BOOMGAARDEN, and GRAY, JJ.

          DAVIS, CHIEF JUSTICE.

         [¶1] Edward Barrowes was convicted of one count of aggravated vehicular homicide and sentenced to a prison term of fourteen to eighteen years. After this Court affirmed his conviction, Mr. Barrowes filed a timely W.R.Cr.P. 35(b) motion for sentence reduction. The district court denied the motion, and we affirm.

         ISSUES

         [¶2] Mr. Barrowes presents two issues on appeal, which he states as follows:

I. Did the district court abuse its discretion when it denied Mr. Barrowes' motion for a sentence reduction?
II. Does Mr. Barrowes' sentence constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution?

         FACTS

         [¶3] The incident and surrounding circumstances that led to Mr. Barrowes' conviction were described in our decision affirming his conviction on direct appeal.

Barrowes is a professional semi-trailer truck driver with a commercial driver's license. A commercial driver's license certifies that a person has gone through the required training and testing and can legally operate a commercial motor vehicle weighing over a certain amount. Those holding a commercial driver's license are subject to federal regulations because of the higher level of knowledge, experience, and skill required to drive a commercial motor vehicle.
The day before the accident, on April 21, 2015, Barrowes and his co-driver, Dennis Pehrson, departed Tremonton, Utah in a semi tractor pulling two trailers to the Denver area. They left around 4:30 p.m., and Pehrson drove the entire stretch from Utah to Colorado, while Barrowes rested in the sleeper berth behind the driver's cabin. This portion of the trip lasted until approximately 1:00 a.m. on the morning of April 22. During at least some of the time while Barrowes was to be resting in the sleeper portion of the tractor, the evidence indicated that he was sending and receiving text messages and possibly talking on the phone.
Barrowes left the sleeper berth at around 2:00 a.m., while the two were waiting to pick up the return load and return to Utah. Their freight was ready to transport around 3:30 a.m. Barrowes took the wheel for the return trip to Tremonton, and Pehrson climbed into the sleeper berth.
Around 6:45 a.m., Barrowes stopped in the vicinity of Rawlins for an hour and forty-five minutes, but it is unclear what he did during that time. He then continued west on Interstate 80.
Forty-five minutes after he got back on the road, another professional truck driver operating a tractor-trailer behind Barrowes' truck observed the vehicle swerving "pretty bad at times" for around three miles over a period of three or four minutes. The vehicle was swerving so badly that the other truck driver did not pass and instead slowed down to keep some distance between the two rigs. He observed that every time Barrowes' truck would straighten up, it would soon start swerving again. The truck passed two exit ramps while the other driver observed its erratic movements. The rig was travelling around 65 miles an hour, below the posted limit on I-80.
Meanwhile, another truck had broken down earlier on the west-bound shoulder of I-80 near Wamsutter. The owner of the vehicle, Aleksandr Kozak, came to the scene to render assistance to the driver. The rig was properly parked on the right shoulder of the road, and its hazard lights were flashing. Emergency reflective triangles were placed along the road, and Kozak wore reflective clothing. The weather ...

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