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.
Women and Justice: Keywords
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.