Gayler v. State

In Gayler v. State, 957 P.2d 855 (Wyo. 1998), the Court warned against community outrage arguments that improperly appeal to a jury's prejudice or passion: Arguments which are designed to appeal to the jury's prejudice or passion are improper. The fear in allowing such appeals is that the accused will be convicted for reasons wholly irrelevant to her guilt or innocence. "Jurors may be persuaded by such appeals to believe that, by convicting a defendant, they will assist in the solution of some pressing social problem. The amelioration of society's woes is far too heavy a burden for the individual criminal defendant to bear." (957 P.2d at 861.) In Gayler, the Court found that the prosecutor's repeated statements inviting the jury to take a stand with law enforcement in the war on drugs and find the defendant guilty in the face of sustained objections was an improper community outrage argument because it appealed to the jury's passion and prejudice against drug-related crimes. 957 P.2d at 861-62. The Court was concerned in that case that the remarks were a "blatant invitation to the jurors to convict Gayler not on the evidence but because of their fear and disapproval of drug dealers in general." Id. In Gayler, the prosecutor blatantly "appealed to the jury to join the government's war [against drugs] by finding Gayler guilty of delivering a controlled substance" in spite of the repeated sustained objections challenging the remarks. Id. 957 P.2d at 860.