from the District Court of Laramie County The Honorable
Thomas T.C. Campbell, Judge
Representing Appellant: Office of the State Public Defender:
Diane Lozano, State Public Defender; Kirk A. Morgan, Chief
Appellate Counsel; David E. Westling, Senior Assistant
Representing Appellee: Bridget Hill, Wyoming Attorney
General; Jenny L. Craig, Deputy Attorney General; Christyne
M. Martens, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Timothy P.
Zintak, Assistant Attorney General
DAVIS, C.J., and FOX, KAUTZ, BOOMGAARDEN, and GRAY, JJ.
Phillip Sam was convicted of one count of first-degree murder
and twelve counts of aggravated assault and battery for
crimes he committed when he was sixteen years old. The
district court found that Mr. Sam was not a juvenile so
irredeemable that he deserved a sentence of life imprisonment
without the possibility of parole, and instead sentenced him
to an aggregate prison term that left him eligible for parole
after fifty-two years. This Court upheld Mr. Sam's
conviction, but found his sentence was a de facto life
without parole sentence in violation of the Eighth Amendment,
and remanded for resentencing. On remand, the district court
imposed an aggregate sentence that leaves Mr. Sam eligible
for parole after serving thirty-five years. We affirm.
Mr. Sam presents a single issue that we restate as: Did the
district court violate the Eighth Amendment or abuse its
discretion in sentencing Mr. Sam to an aggregate sentence
that leaves him eligible for parole after serving thirty-five
In 2016, Mr. Sam was convicted of one count of first-degree
murder and twelve counts of aggravated assault and battery.
Sam v. State, 2017 WY 98, ¶ 8, 401 P.3d 834,
842 (Wyo. 2017). We described the underlying facts in our
decision affirming the conviction:
Mr. Sam had ongoing conflict with a rival youth group, which
escalated on October 4 and into the early hours of October 5,
2014. The afternoon of the 4th, Mr. Sam stole a .40 caliber
S&W semi-automatic pistol from his mother's
boyfriend. Later, he had several communications with members
of the rival group about setting up a fight. He made sure the
group was primed to fight when he went out to the mall where
they were watching a movie, located one of their cars, and
broke its mirror and slashed its tires. Mr. Sam then went to
hang out at his friend Timber Strange's house. He took
out the gun to show his friends and "said that he was
going to kill someone that night."
When the car's owner discovered the damage, one of the
rival group, Damian Brennand, immediately called Mr. Sam,
believing he was "the only known person who would have
done it," and "told him ... he needed his ass
beat," and that he was going to bring a gun to the park
to shoot Mr. Sam. Later, one member of the group called Mr.
Sam back to say they "couldn't get their hands on a
gun. They couldn't find one," but they wanted to
meet him and fight. Mr. Sam changed the location of the
encounter to Martin Luther King Park and went there with five
friends. Mr. Sam took the pistol, and he and Timber Strange
sat in a pavilion for about 15 minutes. Mr. Strange
I had asked him if this was actually what he wanted to do, if
he actually wanted to do this.
Q. [Prosecutor] And by this, what did you mean?
A. As in hurt people and potentially kill ...