Lancaster v. State

In Lancaster v. State, 43 P.3d 80, 96 (Wyo. 2002), an officer testified that upon encountering Lancaster "walking along a dirt road in a rural area at about 6:00 a.m." and, knowing that police in nearby Casper were attempting to locate a murder suspect, the officer asked Lancaster if he was "okay" and whether everything was "all right." According to the officer, Lancaster "ignored me or at least I felt he ignored me," "didn't respond to me at all," and the officer "felt that was suspicious." Id. The Court concluded that Lancaster: "was not a case where, faced with the accusations of investigating officers, the appellant made no response, only to have his silence used against him at trial as evidence of guilt. Instead, the fact that the appellant initially ignored the officer and failed to respond to him was presented in direct testimony simply as part of the circumstances under which the officer first encountered the appellant. It is significant that the questions and answers had nothing to do with the crime itself. It is also significant that, unlike in Tortolito, the prosecutor did not mention in opening or argue in closing that the appellant's silence somehow proved guilt." Id. The Court held the challenged victim impact testimony in totality was relevant to the issue of whether the defendant intended to kill the victim, while testimony concerning the "emotional fallout" from the assault was irrelevant. Addressing the latter testimony, the Court concluded it was not unduly prejudicial given the amount of other evidence showing the defendant's guilt.