Judge To Decide Whether Murderer’s Attorneys Should Have Considered Mental Health Issues
A judge will determine whether the attorneys for an Evansville man guilty of murder failed to consider possible mental health issues in his defense.
The Wyoming Supreme Court ruled in January that Samuel Renner had legitimate questions whether his attorneys prepared an adequate defense preparation for the trial in which he was accused of shooting of Todd Callies in the parking lot of Taylor's Sports Bar in 2013.
Instead of going to trial, Renner pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a 60-year-to-life prison term for second-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder, seven counts of aggravated assault and battery, and two counts of possession of a deadly weapon with unlawful intent.
The supreme court's order stated Renner should be able to investigate when his attorney was aware he had potential mental health issues that might be a defense, what efforts the attorney made to determine the possible effect of his head injuries on his mental health status at the time of the alleged crimes, why the attorney did not make further efforts, and the effect of those decisions.
Tuesday, Natrona County District Attorney Thomas Sullins heard testimony from Renner's original defense attorneys Kurt Infanger and Don Fuller. Sullins will review the testimony and court documents, and notify the supreme court of his decision by April 6.
During the hearing, Renner's attorney Eric Alden asked Infanger and Fuller why they didn't have more tests done about the defendant's mental health
They responded those who dealt with Renner that night -- emergency medical technicians, Wyoming Medical Center emergency room personnel, nurses at the county jail, and the WMC's neurologist Dr. David Wheeler -- did not report anything to warrant further mental health evaluations, especially whether he might have been so mentally impaired that he didn't know what he was doing.
Infanger told Alden his line of questioning omitted the fact that Renner was extremely intoxicated the night he killed Callies.
Fuller said if the case had gone to trial, the defense would have called Wheeler to talk about Renner's rage that night, but not any mental health issues.
During a cross examination by District Attorney Mike Blonigen -- the prosecutor who now was defending Renner's original defense attorneys -- Infanger said Renner knew enough to elude police for hours that night.
In his closing arguement, Alden said the attorneys were aware of mental health issues and made no efforts to pursue that line of defense.
Blonigen said pleading guilty as part of a plea agreement is different than possible problems in a trial such as procedural errors.
Even if Renner's case had gone to trial, mental health issues would not have changed the outcome, Blonigen said. "We have not one shred of evidence if he had go to trial he would have prevailed."
Renner agreed to a plea agreement that possibly could keep him from dying in prison, but now that isn't good enough, Blonigen said.
"I think this more more about buyer's remorse than anything," he said.