Wyoming Supreme Court Upholds Bar Nunn Child Molester’s Conviction
The Wyoming Supreme Court on Monday upheld the conviction and life sentence of a Bar Nunn man who sexually abused a child in 2018.
At the end of a bench trial on June 19, 2019, Natrona County District Court Judge Kerri Johnson handed down the sentence to George Everrette Tamblyn for first-degree sexual abuse of a minor, and ordered him to serve concurrent 10- to 15-year sentences on two other charges.
In September, Tamblyn filed his appeal with the Wyoming Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments in March.
In their unanimous opinion written by Justice Keith Kautz, the justices recounted the facts of the case that began in January 2018 with a report of alleged abuse of a girl and the subsequent investigation.
Tamblyn was charged with one count of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor, two counts of second-degree abuse of a minor, and two other counts.
He asked for, and was granted, a hearing to determine if the child was competent to testify. The district court found the child was competent.
Tamblyn waived his right to a jury trial.
After the prosecution rested, he moved for a directed verdict on all counts. The prosecution conceded there was no evidence for two counts and they were dismissed. But the court found him guilty on three other counts.
Because of a previous similar plea of no contest to sexual abuse of a minor, Johnson sentenced Tamblyn to a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
In his appeal, Tamblyn argued the district court erred when it found the then six-year-old victim competent to testify as a witness. Because he believed she was incompetent as well as her behavior at the trial, he was denied his right to confront a witness in violation of the U.S. and Wyoming constitutions.
The high court reviewed the victim's behavior during the competency hearing during which she did not immediately respond and hid under a table. The court told her to sit in a chair, she did and answered questions about her name, age, birthdate and school. She also said she knew what a lie and the truth are. At the end of the hearing, she gave details about the abuse.
The Natrona County District Court acknowledged the child had given "some problematic answers" during the competency hearing, but was still competent.
During the trial, the child sometimes moved from the chair to under the witness table, sometimes answered questions "through" a toy dog, and sometimes responded "I have no clue" to questions.
The supreme court's opinion cited case law that said a "'child's statement's need not be perfect for her to be considered competent.'"
It added that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it declared she was competent to testify.
The court also found that Tamblyn was not denied the right to cross-examine her.
Even if he had been able to wholly discredit her testimony, the court wrote, "the verdict would not have been different because her testimony was not the only evidence of guilt. ... Importantly, Mr. Tamblyn himself corroborated the abuse."
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