BREAKING: Judge Rejects New Trial for Casper Man Who Shot Mother
A Natrona County District Court Judge on Monday ruled against a new trial for a Casper man convicted of murder in the shooting death of his mother.
Judge Daniel Forgey rejected defense attorneys' argument that Andrew Steplock did not receive adequate representation during his November 2019 jury trial.
Andrew Steplock has exhausted virtually all of his legal options for a new trial. He does have the option of appealing Forgey's ruling to the Wyoming Supreme Court.
Prior to the trial, a psychologist for the Wyoming State Hospital determined that Steplock did not lack "substantial capacity as a result of mental illness or deficiency, to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of law."
Following that determination, Steplock's defense team sought out another mental health evaluation, which requires the approval of a committee consisting of the state's senior public defenders. That request was denied.
Asked why neither of Steplock's attorneys — Joseph Cole and Joe Hampton — didn't ask a judge to overrule the decision, a defense attorney stated, "Because I did not think about it," according to the brief.
"The weakness in Mr. Steplock's case regarding the (mental illness plea) did not become apparent to defense counsel until the Thursday prior to trial.
In the minutes before attorneys were to give their opening statements, Andrew Steplock's attorneys attempted to add a counselor who performed tests on Andrew Steplock.
Prosecutors successfully object to that as the counselor who ran tests on Andrew Steplock was not a licensed examiner under Wyoming law.
Robin S. Cooper, Andrew Steplock's appellant attorney, argued that Hampton and Cole essentially put Andrew Steplock's case on "the back burner" in the months leading up to the trial. Particularly, Hampton testified Monday that he wasn't aware that Andrew Steplock wanted to take his case to trial until roughly a month before it was set to proceed.
"Obviously he shot his own mom, so the best defense is going to be (not guilty by reason of mental illness," Hampton said. He added that prosecutors offered a deal in the case, but Steplock declined and "insisted" on the mental illness plea.
Hampton did not elaborate on what deal Steplock was offered.
Assistant Natrona County District Attorney Kevin Taheri argued that Andrew Steplock's attorneys did not demonstrate having the extra witness would change the trial. He also said a committee of Wyoming's senior public defenders agreed with that in not allowing Cole and Hampton to seek a second mental health evaluation.
"The jury that heard this case heard all of the evidence, including (Andrew Steplock's) own testimony," Forgey said when handing down his ruling.
Andrew Steplock pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental illness to charges of felony murder, second-degree murder, aggravated burglary and possession of a deadly weapon with unlawful intent.
It took a 12-person jury roughly 90 minutes to convict Steplock on all of the charges.
Deborah Steplock, Andrew Steplock's mother, was 58.
This story will be updated.