- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 9, 2014

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The Wyoming Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday on whether to grant a new trial to a Johnson County man serving six life sentences without parole on convictions of sexually abusing children.

A jury last year found 34-year-old Michael Allan Lindstrom of Buffalo guilty of multiple sex crimes against children and other offenses. District Judge William Edelman sentenced Lindstrom in January.

Lawyer Kirk Morgan with the Wyoming Public Defender’s Office urged the state Supreme Court Tuesday to grant Lindstrom a new trial.

Morgan said prosecutors with the Johnson County Attorney’s Office violated Lindstrom’s right to a fair trial by mentioning that panties belonging to women and girls not involved in the case had been found in Lindstrom’s apartment in Casper.

Morgan said Edelman allowed testimony about the panties over the objection of Lindstrom’s trial lawyer without conducting the proper legal analysis.

Under questioning from Justice Marilyn Kite, Morgan said prosecutors made no attempt to show that the panties belonged to victims in the case for which Lindstrom was on trial. Morgan said the state failed to meet its burden to show why the panties were relevant.

Morgan said the only reason prosecutors wanted to mention the discovery of the panties to the jury was to vilify Lindstrom. “Keeping peoples’ underwear that doesn’t belong to you is an offensive act,” he said.

Assistant Attorney General Caitlin Frances Young urged the court to uphold Lindstrom’s convictions. She said mentioning the panties didn’t change the trial’s outcome.

Justice William Hill asked Young whether she believed the jury even considered the issue of the panties in finding Lindstrom guilty.

Young responded that the state wished the evidence regarding panties hadn’t been introduced at trial. But she maintained it didn’t affect the outcome of the case.

Morgan also argued that it hurt Lindstrom’s right to receive a fair trial when prosecutors amended the complaint against him to allege a different sexual act against one child after the child’s video testimony didn’t match an earlier statement.

And Morgan argued that it was improper for a prosecutor to tell the jury in his closing statement that a child who reported sexual abuse by Lindstrom didn’t imagine it and didn’t make it up. Morgan said it was improper for the prosecutor to vouch for the veracity of a witness.

“With a sentence of life without parole, the court should review these acts,” Morgan said.

On the issue of vouching for the witness, Young said the prosecutor was paraphrasing statements that the child victim’s mother had made that the child didn’t make things up.

Young said that the charge against Lindstrom remained the same even though the elements of it were amended before trial in response to the child’s videotaped testimony.

The court will issue a written ruling on Lindstrom’s request for a new trial later.

Johnson County Attorney Kenneth DeCock, who prosecuted Lindstrom, issued a statement last December after his conviction crediting investigators and social service agencies that alerted law enforcement that they believed the children had been abused.

“It’s difficult to believe that crimes this horrific can happen in our small community,” DeCock stated. “This case just illustrates that no one, no community, is immune from deviant behavior.”


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