Sunday, November 17, 2013

Olsen v. State case brief

Olsen v. State case brief summary
67 P.3d 536 (2003)

The District Court of Washakie County (Wyoming), after a jury trial, convicted defendant of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-2-101(a) capital murder, for murdering three victims during a robbery at a bar, and sentenced him to death under Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-2-102. Defendant appealed in accordance with Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-2-103(a).


  • Defendant's counsel was not ineffective for admitting that defendant shot the victims in the back of their heads to get a second-degree, rather than first-degree, murder conviction, in light of defendant's several confessions, or for not arguing the defense of mental incapacity. 
  • There was sufficient premeditation, planning activity, even though defendant suffered from brain injuries and was drunk, based on confessions and manner of killing. 
  • The death penalty statute was a weighing statute; the supreme court suggested proper weighing instructions, that the limited statutory aggravating circumstances had to "outweigh" mitigating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt to impose the death penalty, for the sentencing retrial. 
  • The scope and required consideration of mitigating circumstances was defined. Victim impact statements were not admissible. 
  • The aggravating circumstances of: 
  • (1) "especially atrocious and cruel, being unnecessarily torturous to the victim" was ambiguous, was improperly instructed, and was not supported by the evidence; and 
  • (2) "knowingly created a great risk of death to two or more persons" was not supported by the evidence--only intended victims were killed.

The supreme court: (1) affirmed the conviction; (2) reversed the death sentence; (3) determined it would not decide whether a different sentence would have occurred if the improper aggravating circumstances had not been present during the jury's weighing process; and (4) remanded the case for a new sentencing hearing.

Recommended Supplements for Criminal Law

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