(Lander, Wyo.) – Ninth District Court Judge Norman E. Young has denied a motion to acquit Shey Bruce of his November conviction of manslaughter relating to the May 2013 death of Charles Laster in Shoshoni.
Bruce was originally charged with Second Degree Murder and Domestic Violence Battery. He was convicted by a jury on Nov. 22, 2013, of Manslaughter and Domestic Violence.
The sentencing in the case is set for 1:30 p.m. on March 6, 2014.
Bruce’s Public Defender Devon Petersen filed for acquittal and a new trial on Dec. 6. Petersen argues that there was insufficient evidence to convict Bruce of Manslaughter. He also states that hearsay evidence inadvertently introduced at trial worked against his client. He also argues that the jury should have been advised of a self-defense defense.
“The jury found Mr. Bruce not guilty of second degree murder, which requires the State to prove he purposely did an act without legal justification that lead to Mr. Laster’s death,” states Petersen’s argument. “They were were specifically instructed on that definition of the word ‘purposely’ and ‘maliciously.’”
“If Mr. Bruce did not purposely do an act without legal justification that lead to Mr. Laster’s death, he could not, then, have ‘voluntarily killed’ Mr. Laster,” Petersen continues. “Second degree murder in Wyoming does not require that a person specifically intend to kill someone, while voluntary manslaughter does. If Mr. Bruce was not guilty of Second Degree Murder under the facts of this case, he cannot be guilty of voluntary manslaughter.”
Deputy County Attorney Pat LeBrun filed the State’s objection on Dec. 19.
“Defendant argues in his motion that voluntary manslaughter requires ‘intent to kill,’” states a footnote in the response. “That is simply not the law. The Wyoming Supreme Court found no plain error in an instruction defining ‘voluntarily’ as ‘…that the act which caused the death was done intentionally. It does not require that the act was done with the intention of killing.’”
When hearsay evidence was introduced by a witness, the state argues that the court handled the situation appropriately, advising the jury to not consider the statement as evidence. The defense argued that the jury could not un-hear what they had heard. LeBrun also argues that there was no foundation for the jury to be advised on self defense.
Young denied the motion on Dec. 20. No formal comments on his decision were filed.