Women and Justice: Court: Wyoming Supreme Court

Domestic Case Law

Boykin v. State Wyoming Supreme Court (2005)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

Defendant appealed a judgment of the District Court, convicting him of one count of assault and battery on a household member. Defendant argued, among other things, that the trial court abused its discretion in allowing the testimony of a convenience store clerk concerning statements the victim made to the clerk under the excited utterance exception to the hearsay rule. Defendant had gone to a bar with his friends and returned around 2:00 a.m. to the residence he shared with his girlfriend and their children, and entered into an argument with his girlfriend, at which time she slapped him and he hit her in the nose. The girlfriend took the children and left the house, driving to a nearby convenience store, where the convenience clerk called the police. At trial, the girlfriend testified that she did not remember whether or not she talked to the clerk about what happened. The clerk, however, testified that she told him that defendant hit her. The Supreme Court of Wyoming affirmed the judgment of the District Court, noting that the excited utterance exception applied to the circumstances and that the girlfriend’s statement to the sales clerk was spontaneous and not the result of reflection, deliberation, or fabrication. In affirming, the court specified five factors the trial court should consider in determining whether the excited utterance exception applies: 1) the nature of the startling event; 2) the declarant’s physical manifestation of excitement; 3) the declarant’s age; 4) the lapse of time between the event and the hearsay statement: and 5) whether the statement was made in response to an inquiry.



R.S. v. Dept. of Family Servs. (In re KLS) Wyoming Supreme Court (2004)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

Appellant-father appealed the judgment of the District Court that terminated his parental rights. The Supreme Court of Wyoming affirmed, as the record contained clear and convincing evidence of abuse and neglect over the child’s lifetime, including evidence that the father caused the child to witness repeated episodes of domestic violence. Termination of parental rights pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-2-309(a)(iii) requires the establishment of three elements: (1) abusive treatment or neglect by the parent; (2) unsuccessful efforts to rehabilitate the family; and (3) the child’s health and safety would be seriously jeopardized by remaining with or returning to the parent. Abuse and neglect are defined in Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-3-202(a)(ii): (ii) “Abuse” means inflicting or causing physical or mental injury, harm or imminent danger to the physical or mental health or welfare of a child other than by accidental means, including abandonment, unless the abandonment is a relinquishment substantially in accordance with W.S. 14-11-101 through 14-11-109, excessive or unreasonable corporal punishment, malnutrition or substantial risk thereof by reason of intentional or unintentional neglect, and the commission or allowing the commission of a sexual offense against a child as defined by law. The Court concluded that the father had subjected the child to abusive treatment and neglect by causing the child to repeatedly witness domestic violence between him and the child’s mother.



Bevan v. Fix Wyoming Supreme Court (2002)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

Appellants, two minor children, appealed the District Court’s grant of summary judgment for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Supreme Court of Wyoming reversed, holding that genuine issues of material fact precluded the grant of summary judgment on the claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress stemmed from a domestic violence incident, which involved appellee beating, kicking, punching, dragging by the hair and choking the mother of two children while screaming that he wanted to kill her. Although the Supreme Court of Wyoming agreed with the District Court that not every domestic violence altercation constitutes an extreme and outrageous conduct or results in sufficiently severe emotional impact to support a third party claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, it also noted that appellee’s alleged conduct in this case amounted to conduct beyond mere insults, indignities and petty oppressions. If proved, it could be construed as outrageous, atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community. Therefore, the grant of summary judgment was improper, as the jury should have been able to determine whether appellee’s conduct was sufficiently extreme and outrageous to result in liability.



Cobb v. Cobb Wyoming Supreme Court (2000)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

Appellant-mother challenged the order of the District Court, awarding child custody to appellee-father and giving her the same visitation rights that appellee had when appellant had custody. The Supreme Court of Wyoming affirmed the order because domestic violence suffered by appellant at the hands of a boyfriend in front of the children was a change in circumstances that warranted a change in custody to protect the parties’ children. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 20-2-113(a) provides that “the court shall consider evidence of spousal abuse or child abuse as being contrary to the best interest of the child.” Although the abuse of mother was not technically “spousal” abuse because they were not married, the Supreme Court of Wyoming agreed with the District Court that the statute applied to non-marital domestic relationships. Therefore, domestic violence experienced by the mother warranted a change in custody to protect the children from potential abuse and was in their best interest.



Trumbull v. State Wyoming Supreme Court (2009)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

Defendant appealed a judgment of the District Court that convicted him of two counts of third-degree sexual assault under Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-2-304(a)(ii) (2005) for sexual improprieties involving his 10-year-old daughter, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions and that the district court erred in imposing sentence. The Supreme Court of Wyoming affirmed defendant’s conviction, but reversed and remanded the case to the District Court for further proceedings on other grounds. The Supreme Court of Wyoming held that, where a statute criminalizing sexual contact contains an element of sexual gratification, it is not enough to establish that the defendant merely touched the sexual or intimate parts of an individual. The law at issue requires the presence of intent of sexual arousal, gratification, or abuse. However, an oral expression of intent is not required to establish a defendant’s intent, but may be established through defendant’s conduct and circumstances of physical contact. Intent of sexual gratification may be inferred from touching the complainant on more than one occasion, and committing the act after no adults were remaining in the house. In this case, defendant’s intent could be inferred from his “massaging” the clothed victim on two occasions, during which he touched her on her “legs, arms, boobs, privates, butt, and girl spot.”



CDB v. DJE Wyoming Supreme Court (2005)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

After pleading guilty, appellant-father was convicted of several counts of sexually abusing his daughter. Appellee-mother filed a petition to terminate father’s parental rights to the daughter, and the District Court terminated his parental rights pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-2-309(a)(iii) and (a)(iv). The Supreme Court of Wyoming upheld the decision. In terminating appellant-father’s parental rights, the Supreme Court held that the fact of incarceration, by itself, is not per se evidence of unfitness. However, incarceration is a reality that severely impacts the parent-child relationship and, therefore, cannot be ignored. The length of appellant’s incarceration of 47 years makes it extremely improbable that appellant would ever be able to care for the ongoing physical, mental or emotional needs of the daughter. Most importantly, appellant was convicted on several counts of sexually abusing his daughter, and there can be nothing that makes a parent more intrinsically unfit than abusing his child.



Hat Six Homes, Inc. v. State Wyoming Supreme Court (2000)

Gender discrimination, Sexual harassment

Appellant-employer challenged the decision from the District Court, affirming findings of appellee, Wyoming Department of Employment, Unemployment Insurance Commission, holding, among other things, that appellee employee had quit her employment with appellant employer for good cause under Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 27-3-311(a)(i) (1997).  In this case, appellee-employee left her employment because of sexual harassment and hostile work environment. This included the president of appellant-employer touching her under her shirt and behind her knees in an unwelcome manner and continuing this behavior after appellee employee asked him to stop. Additionally, conduct of the vice-president created a tension that “could [be] cut . . . with a knife . . .” On several occasions, the vice-president threw around staplers and cellular phones and yelled at customers and other employees. The Supreme Court of Wyoming affirmed the District Court’s decision and held that this conduct on the part of appellant-employer sufficed for the determination that appellee-employee had quit her employment for good cause.


Kanzler v. Renner Wyoming Supreme Court (1997)

Sexual harassment

Appellant, a former dispatcher with the Cheyenne Police Department, appealed from the summary judgment which was entered in favor of police officer-appellee, also employed by the Cheyenne Police Department, on appellant’s claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Wyoming Supreme Court reversed, because as a matter of law, appellant presented sufficient evidence in support of her claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress, based on inappropriate sexual conduct by a co-employee in the workplace, to survive appellee’s motion for summary judgment. The court identified several recurring factors that could be used in determining whether particular conduct in the workplace is sufficiently outrageous to survive a preliminary motion: (1) abuse of power; (2) repeated incidents and/or pattern of harassment; (3) unwelcome touching and/or offensive, non-negligible physical contact; and (4) retaliation for refusing or reporting sexually-motivated advances. The court found that conditions and circumstances alleged by appellant, including repeated incidents over a period of time and offensive, non-negligible physical contact, could lead a jury to construe appellee’s conduct as outrageous. Furthermore, appellant’s evidence was sufficient to create a jury issue on the severity of her emotional distress.



Sam v. State Wyoming Supreme Court (2008)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

Defendant was arrested for violation of a protection order and moved to suppress the results of a search of his motor vehicle, which uncovered evidence of drug crimes. The Supreme Court of Wyoming affirmed the judgment and defendant’s conviction. A sergeant of the Police department became aware of an order of protection in favor of Candie Hinton and her daughter, protecting them from defendant and, among other things, prohibiting defendant from calling them on the phone. Aware that the defendant was in violation of the terms of the protection order because of the Hintons’ complaints of phone harassment, the sergeant was preparing to seek a warrant for defendant’s arrest. The sergeant was also aware that he was authorized to make a warrantless arrest if he became aware of a specific instance of a violation of the protection order. Before the sergeant was able to obtain an arrest warrant, the Crisis Intervention Office contacted him and told him that Candie Hinton and her daughter were at the Office, that defendant had been calling the daughter’s cell phone, and that defendant had twice driven by the Office. When the sergeant observed defendant driving by for a third time, he stopped him and arrested him on the basis of violation of the protection order. During the search of defendant’s car for evidence relating to violation of the protection order, the sergeant uncovered evidence of drug crimes, but no evidence of defendant’s violation of the protection order. The Supreme Court of Wyoming sustained the conviction and ruled the evidence of drug crimes as admissible under these circumstances because the officer was aware that defendant was the subject of an order of protection and that he had violated that order several times immediately prior to his search and arrest. Consequently, the officer was justified in searching for evidence which might serve to sustain defendant’s prosecution for violation of the protection order and/or that he might have been an imminent and serious danger to his victims, given his prior behavior.