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State of Montana v. Christopher Wagner

February 26, 2013

STATE OF MONTANA, PLAINTIFF AND APPELLEE,
v.
CHRISTOPHER WAGNER, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Eighteenth Judicial District, In and For the County of Gallatin, Cause No. DC 07-97C Honorable Mike Salvagni, Presiding Judge

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael E Wheat

February 27 2013

COUNSEL OF RECORD:

Submitted on Briefs: November 28, 2012

Filed:

Clerk

Justice Michael E Wheat delivered the Opinion of the Court.

¶1 Christopher Wagner (Wagner) appeals from the judgment of the Eighteenth Judicial District Court, Gallatin County, entered after a jury convicted him of attempted deliberate homicide, as well as from the District Court's denial of his motion to dismiss. We affirm.

¶2 Wagner raises the following three issues on review:

¶3 Issue One: Was Wagner denied his constitutional right to due process because a motions hearing failed to record and therefore no transcript is available for effective appellate review?

¶4 Issue Two: Did the District Court err by denying Wagner's motion to dismiss for negligent destruction of exculpatory evidence?

¶5 Issue Three: Did the District Court err by improperly limiting Wagner's cross-examination of a State's witness?

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

¶6 This case arises from a gun fight between Wagner and Michael Peters (Peters) that occurred on January 17, 2007 in Bozeman, Montana. The case proceeded to trial in 2008, and a jury convicted Wagner of attempted deliberate homicide with a weapon. On appeal, this Court reversed and remanded for a new trial upon finding that prosecutorial comments regarding Wagner's post-Miranda silence constituted plain error. See State v. Wagner, 2009 MT 256, 352 Mont. 1, 215 P.3d 20. Because we recounted in detail the factual history of this matter in Wagner, we provide here only those details pertinent to Wagner's present appeal.

¶7 After we remanded the case for a new trial, the District Court held several pre-trial hearings and ruled on various motions. Of particular relevance here is Wagner's December 24, 2009 motion to dismiss due to negligent destruction of exculpatory evidence. Wagner argued that police failed to properly preserve the crime scene by allowing Peters' father, Dr. Peters, to enter and move Peters' vehicle prior to it being processed. As a result, Wagner claimed a violation of his due process rights.

ΒΆ8 The District Court held a hearing on the motion on March 24, 2010. The court denied the motion, and issued a decision and order on March 31, 2010. Based on testimony and evidence presented at the hearing, the court made several factual findings pertaining to the crime scene following the shooting. The court found that Peters was quickly transported to the hospital by ambulance while law enforcement worked to secure the scene and establish perimeters. During that time, Dr. Peters made two separate trips to Peters' vehicle. On the first trip, Dr. Peters saw and collected a .32 caliber automatic gun from the floor of the vehicle, which he brought to a police officer on the scene. Dr. Peters thought he may have touched the door and steering wheel during this trip. Dr. Peters made a second trip to the vehicle in search of Peters' cell phone. He rummaged through the vehicle for a few minutes, found the phone, and gave it to one of the officers. Because the vehicle was in the middle of the road, Dr. Peters moved it to the side of the road, locked it and brought the keys to an officer. Dr. Peters was trying to "get things under control and help out," and was not ...


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