A judge didn’t abuse her power by making a Cheyenne double murderer wear an electric-shock belt at his trial after the man didn’t show up to court in time to argue against that idea, the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.
Shouting, “How could you do this to me?” and “Don’t you love me?” Nathaniel Castellanos killed his love interest and her boyfriend as they hung out in his Cheyenne home Aug. 23, 2011. He then gravely wounded another woman who was also there by shooting her twice in the head.
The Laramie County District Court sentenced Castellanos to three consecutive life sentences in prison for two counts of first-degree murder and a third of attempted first-degree murder.
Hurling A Trash Can
Then in March 2022, Castellanos faced yet another felony charge for punching a prison guard repeatedly and throwing a trash can at him, scraping the guard’s face and injuring his wrist, according to a Tuesday ruling by the Wyoming Supreme Court.
The proceedings that followed were apparently for justice’s nominal sake: Castellanos ended up with another felony conviction and a four- to six-year sentence on top of the life sentences he cannot fulfill with his one life on earth.
But his court case was full of rebellions and protests, and ended with an appeal to the state’s highest court anyway.
You Won’t Know When You’re Going For A Drive
Authorities charged Castellanos with felony-level interference with a peace officer.
He was scheduled to attend his preliminary hearing April 7, 2022, but refused to leave his cell. The Circuit Court judge rescheduled, allowing a video hearing for May 10, 2022. Castellanos showed up by video, but objected to conducting the hearing that way, so the court rescheduled yet again for May 18, 2022.
The judge told Castellanos he wouldn’t enjoy the privilege of knowing in advance exactly when prison staffers were taking him to court.
That stems from a Wyoming Department of Corrections policy designed to prevent planned escapes and ambushes during prisoner transport.
Castellanos attended his May 18 hearing and his case ascended to the felony-level court afterward.
Wear The Shock Belt
Once the case was in her court, District Court Judge Dawnessa A. Snyder juggled similar plot twists.
The case prosecutor asked Snyder to require Castellanos to wear a taser belt, or electric-shock belt, during the trial to keep Castellanos in line.
Snyder set an Oct. 19, 2022 “Asch” hearing, which gives prosecutors and defenders a chance to argue about whether the state should restrain a suspect at trial.
Prosecutors need special permission to put electric belts or shackles on defendants during trials, and must show they have compelling reasons for doing that, according to Wyoming case law.
Castellanos’ Asch hearing was set for Oct. 19. The prison didn’t bring him due to “transportation issues.” Snyder rescheduled the hearing for the next day.
Castellanos didn’t show because he was again refusing to leave his cell. A prison guard offered Castellanos the use of the guard’s own cellphone to attend the hearing by phone, but Castellanos refused that as well.
The defense attorney said he could argue on Castellanos’ behalf without Castellanos there.
Snyder held the hearing, and she decided to make Castellanos wear the electric-shock belt under his clothes at his upcoming trial.
On the first day of his trial, Castellanos objected to having to wear the taser belt, but Snyder said the court had already heard that argument at the hearing Castellanos refused to attend.
Castellanos said he wouldn’t attend because the prison wouldn’t show him his transport order, the document revealing exactly when he’d be traveling to court.
The jury convicted Castellanos of felony interference, and Snyder sentenced him to a term of four to six years in prison to be served consecutively – after – to his three life sentences.
An Appeal For A Man Already Gone
Castellanos appealed his conviction, arguing that his Asch hearing had been a critical turn in his case and he had a constitutional right to attend it.
The state of Wyoming argued that Castellanos waived that right by refusing to leave his cell.
The Wyoming Supreme Court has not yet ruled on whether an Asch hearing is a critical proceeding that a person has a constitutional right to attend in person. And the high court didn’t make that ruling in Castellanos’ case either.
“We assume, without deciding, Mr. Castellanos had a right to be present at the Asch hearing,” reads the ruling.
But Castellanos made a conscious and deliberate reason to skip out on his Asch hearing.
“Castellanos failed to appear at the hearing due to circumstances within his control and without leave of the court,” says the ruling. “The district court did not violate his due process rights.”
The high court upheld Castellanos’ conviction.
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.