Wyoming Supreme Court Rejects Mills Man’s Meth Conviction Appeal
The Wyoming Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously upheld the conviction of a Mills man who claimed a prosecutor's opening statement prejudiced the jury during his trial for felony child endangerment.
A jury earlier this year found Michael David Lott guilty of two counts of felony child endangerment with two children and one count of misdemeanor possession of methamphetamine, according to court documents.
The jury acquitted Lott of two counts of child endangerment with two other children.
Natrona County District Court Judge Catherine Wilking sentenced Lott to two concurrent -- at the same time -- three- to five-year prison terms for the child endangerment convictions and 26 days in jail for the possession charge.
Those sentences were to run consecutively to a prison term from a previous child endangerment with meth case.
Lott, through his public defenders, filed his appeal on Feb. 28, 2022.
He cited two similar allegedly improper statements by the prosecutor during their opening statement, which is the lawyer's first time to tell the jury what a case is about and the evidence to be presented, but the statement is not evidence itself.
The prosecutor said twice that Lott chose methamphetamine over the safety of his children. The prosecutor would later introduce evidence during the trial supporting that statement, and the jury would convict Lott.
In his appeal to the Wyoming Supreme Court, Lott claimed the prosecutor's statements biased the jury and the outcome of the trial would have been different without them.
But the Wyoming Supreme Court disagreed, according to the opinion written by Justice John Fenn.
"Mr. Lott failed to establish the prosecutor's statements denied him a substantial right or materially prejudiced prejudiced his case. Therefore, he failed to establish plain error occurred, and his convictions are affirmed," Fenn wrote.
This case started in May 2021 when Mills Police found children in "unsanitary" and "hazardous" living conditions, according to court documents.
Lott was on probation for a previous conviction of child endangering.
A police dog alerted to the presence of methamphetamine, and officer found a mirror with a clear crystalline substance suspected to be methamphetamine on it.
The house was a mess.
"There was trash, debris, clothing and miscellaneous personal items strewn about the floor and stacked on furniture," a police officer writes in the affidavit. "I observed rotting food in containers throughout the house, dishes in the sink, rotting food on the floor and no furniture free of debris to sleep in."
The children in the house were born in 2019, 2017, 2014 and 2012.
According to the affidavit, Lott's girlfriend, Jackie Flores, was also in the home and on probation for child endangerment. Both Flores and Lott denied knowing about the methamphetamine allegedly found in the house.
In a separate case, Flores was prosecuted and sentenced, according to Natrona County District Court records
This marked the second time Lott unsuccessfully appealed a conviction of felony child endangerment decision in Natrona County District Court.
On March 29, he was arrested in Casper after a search of his vehicle where he and Flores were living with two infants.
He was later charged with one felony county of child endangerment with methamphetamine and one misdemeanor count of possession of methamphetamine.
Lott was convicted, Natrona County District Court Judge Kerri Johnson sentenced to prison, and later he was released on probation. He violated the terms of the probation when he committed the crime above.
On Aug. 8, 2021, he through his attorneys filed an appeal of a self-admitted probation revocation ordered by the District Court on June 11, 2021.
Lott later decided to represent himself.
However, Lott did not file the appropriate pro se paperwork in the given time, so the Wyoming Supreme Court rejected his appeal on Nov. 24, 2021.
As a result of violating his probation, Natrona County District Court Judge Catherine Wilking sentenced him to three-and-a-half years to four-and-a-half years imprisonment.