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Williams v. State

Court of Appeals of Alaska

April 5, 2019

WENDY CHRISTINE WILLIAMS, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF ALASKA, Appellee.

          Appeal from the District Court No. 3AN-13-8491 CR, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Leslie Dickson, Judge.

          David T. McGee, Attorney at Law, Anchorage, under contract with the Public Defender Agency, and Quinlan Steiner, Public Defender, Anchorage, for the Appellant.

          Lawrence B. Monsma, Assistant District Attorney, Anchorage, and Jahna Lindemuth, Attorney General, Juneau, for the Appellee.

          Before: Mannheimer, Chief Judge, Allard, Judge, and Coats, Senior Judge. [*]

          OPINION

          MANNHEIMER JUDGE

         Wendy Christine Williams was convicted of two counts of violating protective orders that prohibited her from contacting, communicating with, or stalking Kathleen Lansdale (the wife of Williams's former husband, Robert Lansdale) and the other members of the Lansdale family. See AS 11.56.740(a).

         One of Williams's convictions was based on her conduct at a football jamboree in August 2013. Williams's other conviction was based on her conduct in an Anchorage parking lot a few months later.

         With respect to the conviction arising from Williams's conduct at the football jamboree, Williams argues that she was denied her right to a unanimous verdict because the prosecutor openly argued to the jurors that Williams could be convicted of violating the protective order based on two different aspects of her behavior at the jamboree, and that the jurors did not need to reach unanimous agreement as to which aspect of Williams's behavior formed the basis of their verdict.

         And with respect to both of Williams's convictions, Williams argues that the trial judge committed error by allowing the prosecutor to introduce evidence of three prior occasions when Williams violated earlier court orders that prohibited her from contacting the Lansdale family.

         For the reasons explained in this opinion, we conclude that neither of Williams's claims has merit, and we therefore affirm Williams's convictions.

         The State's case against Williams

         Beginning in 2004, Williams and her former husband, Robert Lansdale, were embroiled in a bitter custody battle over their son, Israel. In 2010, Lansdale was granted sole custody of Israel (with Williams having a right of visitation). Throughout these years, the superior court issued orders prohibiting the Lansdale and Williams families from contacting each other.

         Williams repeatedly violated the superior court's orders by approaching or contacting Robert Lansdale and his new wife, Kathleen.

         In March 2013, Kathleen Lansdale went to court and obtained another protective order against Williams. This 6-month protective order prohibited Williams from approaching or confronting Kathleen, watching or following her, or otherwise stalking her. In addition, the protective order prohibited Williams from directly or indirectly communicating with any member of the Lansdale family - including Israel - except for communications that were consistent with Williams's right of visitation.

         In early August 2013, while this protective order was in effect, the Lansdale family attended a football jamboree in Anchorage. Israel was playing in this jamboree, and Robert and Kathleen were there to support him. Williams, too, attended this football jamboree, accompanied by her other son, Diego.

         According to the testimony presented at Williams's trial, Williams was sitting high in the bleachers of the football stadium, and both Robert and Kathleen Lansdale observed her taking photographs of them and Israel. In addition, according to Robert Lansdale's testimony, Williams called out to Israel and beckoned him to come over to where she was sitting. Based on what transpired at this football jamboree, Williams was convicted of violating the March protective order.[1]

         In early November 2013, Kathleen Lansdale went back to court and obtained another 6-month protective order against Williams. This second protective order contained the same provisions as the previous one.

         Williams was convicted of violating this November 2013 protective order as well, based on events that took place on November 26, 2013 (about three weeks after the order was issued).

         According to the testimony presented at Williams's trial, Robert Lansdale was sitting in his vehicle in a parking lot, waiting for his wife Kathleen to get off work. While Robert was waiting, he thought he saw Williams's current husband crouched behind a nearby garbage can.

         Shortly thereafter, when Kathleen joined Robert, she observed Williams's car parked nearby. Williams was sitting in this car, and there was a camera propped on the dashboard, emitting a red light (i.e., it appeared to be recording). Kathleen also saw Williams's son, Diego, taking photographs of her and Robert.

         The facts underlying Williams's claim that she was denied her right to jury unanimity

         As we indicated in the preceding section of this opinion, the State presented evidence that Williams's conduct at the football jamboree violated the protective order in two different ways: first, because Williams took photographs of Kathleen Lansdale, and second, because Williams beckoned to Israel.

         At Williams's trial, the jury was instructed that Williams should be found guilty if the State proved either of these two things beyond a reasonable doubt - and that the jurors did not have to unanimously agree on which of these two things had been proved, so long as all the jurors agreed that one or the other was proved.

         On appeal, Williams argues that this was constitutional error-that Alaska law required the trial judge to instruct the jury that Williams could not be convicted unless the jurors reached unanimous agreement as to which of the two things had been proved.

         Here is the factual background of Williams's claim:

         At Williams's trial, both Robert Lansdale and Kathleen Lansdale testified about the events at the football jamboree.

         During his direct examination, Robert explained that Williams was sitting in the bleachers at the jamboree and that, at one point, he observed Williams taking photographs of his family-him, ...


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