Montana Supreme Court upholds attempted homicide conviction

2013-02-28T09:41:00Z 2013-02-28T15:18:04Z Montana Supreme Court upholds attempted homicide convictionThe Associated Press The Associated Press
February 28, 2013 9:41 am  • 

BOZEMAN — The Montana Supreme Court has upheld a Colorado man's second attempted-homicide conviction for a January 2007 shootout southeast of Bozeman.

Christopher Wagner, 38, was convicted in 2010 for shooting at Michael Peters, who had briefly dated Wagner's ex-girlfriend. Wagner is serving a 60-year prison sentence.

Testimony indicated that Wagner flagged down Peters, who was driving a pickup, and pointed a gun at him. Peters, who had heard Wagner might be in town and looking for him, shot at Wagner first, hitting him in the chest. Wagner shot Peters three times and then fled. He was arrested eight days later in Greybull, Wyo., and argued that the shooting was self-defense.

Wagner was first convicted in 2008, but he successfully appealed to the Supreme Court that his rights were violated when a prosecutor implied that Wagner's refusal to speak with investigators after his arrest was indicative of guilt.

In the latest appeal, Wagner argued that his constitutional rights were violated because police allowed Peters' father to remove a gun from the truck, search for a cellphone and move the vehicle, damaging potential evidence.

Justice Michael Wheat wrote in Wednesday's ruling that Wagner didn't present any factual basis that any missing evidence was important to his defense.

Wagner also appealed on grounds he was limited in his questioning of an inmate at the Gallatin County jail who testified that Wagner said he beat the charges against him before, and that he was going to kill Peters and his former girlfriend.

Wagner argued the court erred in not allowing him to question the inmate's credibility by asking about his prior and pending criminal charges.

The justices, in a 5-0 ruling, said Wagner did have the opportunity to attack the inmate's credibility, including the fact that he had previously given false information to law enforcement, without the cross-examination turning into an unnecessary inquiry into the man's criminal history.

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