A man’s claims that he acted in self-defense when he shot a Cheyenne man during a quarrel stemming from a lover’s triangle were rejected Friday by Wyoming’s Supreme Court.
The court upheld the conviction of Timothy Dean Leners on charges of attempted second-degree murder in the December 2017 shooting of Christopher Trout, saying the evidence did not support his claims of self-defense.
“The evidence at trial devastated Mr. Leners’ justification of self-defense to charges of attempted second-degree murder,” said the opinion, written by Justice Kari Gray.
According to the ruling, Leners drove from Nebraska to Cheyenne on Dec. 23, 2017, intending to remove Trout from the apartment he shared with his wife Joyce Trout. Joyce Trout and Leners had been involved in an eight-month relationship which she ended about two weeks prior to the shooting to return to her husband.
When Leners showed up at the apartment, Christopher Trout “was not receptive to his arrival.” Leners and the Trouts spoke in the apartment for a while and when Christopher Trout left the apartment to run some errands, Leners started moving his belongings into the apartment.
When he returned to his apartment, Christopher Trout heard his wife and Leners arguing. He ordered Leners to leave his home and the two got what Trout described as “a little pushing match” as he opened the door and put Leners’ belongings outside.
Christopher Trout testified that Leners went to his pickup truck and when he returned, he had a handgun that he was pointing at Trout. After a struggle over the weapon, Leners was shot in the chest.
Joyce Trout’s account of the incident was similar to that of her husband, the opinion said, while Leners’ account differed somewhat. Over time, the details of his account changed, but he maintained he shot Trout because Trout had attacked him, so he acted in self-defense.
Leners, who was sentenced to 25 to 35 years in prison after his May 2019 trial, appealed his conviction, saying his attorney was ineffective because he failed to object to evidence that was introduced by prosecutors late in the trial process.
The evidence consisted of recordings of calls between Leners and Christopher Trout as Leners drove from Nebraska to Cheyenne in which Leners referred to Trout as a “troll, rapist and pig” and said he wanted to kill Trout.
Leners said the late introduction of the evidence amounted to prosecutorial misconduct and the failure of his attorney to object to the evidence was ineffective assistance of counsel.
But the Supreme Court unanimously rejected the argument, saying the evidence did not prejudice the case against Leners because there was sufficient other evidence to disprove his self-defense claim.
“We agree with the district court’s conclusion that the evidence ‘doomed’ Mr. Leners’ argument that he acted in justifiable self-defense,” the opinion said. “While the statements in (the recordings) were most certainly not helpful to Mr. Leners’ defense, the evidence which preceded this exhibit had already secured the verdict.”