REVIEW FROM COURT OF APPEALS CASE NO. 2014-CA-001095-MR WOLFE
CIRCUIT COURT NO. 13-CR-00004
COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT: Andy Beshear Attorney General of
Kentucky Perry Thomas Ryan Assistant Attorney General
COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: Susan Jackson Balliet. Assistant Public
Billy Reed Caudill (Caudill), was tried before a jury in
Wolfe Circuit Court on the charges of murder and three counts
of wanton endangerment in the first degree. The jury
acquitted Caudill of the murder charge, finding that he had
acted in self-protection, but found him guilty of all three
counts of first-degree wanton endangerment. The judge
thereafter affixed his sentence at fifteen years, five years
on each count to be run consecutively. ', Caudill
appealed this judgment to the Court of Appeals, which
reversed and vacated his conviction. Finding no reversible
error in the judgment of the Wolfe Circuit Court, we reverse
the Court of Appeals and reinstate the trial court's
issue before this Court is purely procedural; however, to
provide context to our decision, we give a brief recitation
of the facts that led to the case before us. Caudill lived
adjacent to Randall Carpenter. Caudill and Carpenter seemed
to have a tumultuous relationship due to legal troubles
between their families. Shirley Hudson and Willena White also
lived near Caudill and Carpenter.
August 21, 2009, Hudson and White, saw Caudill arid Carpenter
in a heated argument. Caudill had a long assault rifle and
Carpenter was on his tractor. Carpenter ultimately left the
confrontation, driving away on his tractor and Caudill went
back to his own trailer. A few hours later, Caudill walked
across his property with his rifle at his side and he and
Carpenter had another heated exchange.
Carpenter pulled his tractor into Hudson's driveway;
Hudson, White, and Hudson's son, Michael, were present in
the Hudson home. Carpenter told Hudson he was going to walk
over to see what Caudill was doing. White heard Carpenter and
Caudill shouting and cursing again. Both Hudson and White saw
Caudill back up and remove his assault rifle from his truck.
Testimony at trial conflicted as to who shot first and
whether Carpenter had a gun at the beginning of the
confrontation or not. It was undisputed that both Carpenter,
armed with a 9 mm Glock, and Caudill, armed with his rifle,
shot multiple times at each other. Caudill was shot twice but
Carpenter was shot through the head, killing him immediately.
Additionally, White, Hudson, and Michael were forced to take
cover in the Hudson garage as bullets flew. Caudill claimed
that his actions were justified in self-defense, alleging
that Carpenter started shooting first.
was first tried before a Breathitt County jury and convicted
of murder and three counts of wanton endangerment, first
degree (one count each for Hudson, White, and Michael). He
was sentenced to 35 years. Upon appeal as a matter of right,
this Court vacated and remanded Caudill's convictions.
Specifically, we held that the prosecutor's actions while
cross-examining Caudill constituted prosecutorial misconduct,
requiring reversal. Caudill, 374 S.W.3d at 308-13.
was retried before a jury in Wolfe Circuit Court. The jury
acquitted Caudill of murder but did find him guilty, once
again, of all three counts of wanton endangerment, first
degree. He was sentenced to fifteen years total imprisonment.
Caudill sought review by the Court of Appeals. The Court of
Appeals, sua sponte, held that the jury instructions
required proof of an additional element in order to find
Caudill guilty of wanton endangerment, first-degree. The
Court held that it could not deem such error harmless (it
should be noted that Caudill did not object to the
instructions at issue or raise this issue in his appeal) and
vacated the conviction, remanding it back for further
upon our review of the issue, we now reverse the Court of
Appeals and reinstate the trial court's judgment.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
review of alleged errors in jury instructions differs,
depending upon the type of error alleged. When the error
arises from giving an unwarranted instruction or failing to
give a warranted instruction, we review the decision for
abuse of discretion. Sargent v. Shaffer, 467 S.W.3d
198, 203 (Ky. 2015). However, when the error hinges on
"whether the text of the instruction accurately
presented the applicable legal theory, " we review the
"content of a jury instruction" de novo.
Id. at 204. Here, the error the Court ...