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Wyoming News Briefs - Friday, Feb. 26

 

February 25, 2021



Body found at snowy site near South Pass; recovery took hours

RIVERTON (WNE) – The body of a woman found dead near South Pass on Tuesday was recovered from a snowy area for investigation about 24 hours later.

The Fremont County Sheriff's Office call log notes that discovery of the woman was reported by the Wyoming Department of Transportation.

Hutchison confirmed that a snowplow driver had notified authorities after observing the vehicle on Tuesday.

"A woman from out of state was found deceased approximately four miles from her vehicle," states the midday entry in the Sheriff's log, "and had apparently walked away from her vehicle, away from the highway."

The car was a black Nissan with an Illinois plate. It was found 1,000 yards off the highway, in the snow, near milepost 35 of Highway 28.

There were tracks in the snow heading away from the car.

"No evidence of any other persons was found in the area," noted FSO, adding that both the sheriff and coroner are investigating.

Fremont County undersheriff Mike Hutchison affirmed that the woman appeared to have been alone.

When asked if investigators had ruled out an animal attack, Hutchison said "we haven't ruled anything out yet."

The body was located - but not recovered - by a helicopter Tuesday afternoon.

Search and Rescue crews attempted to get to the site by vehicle, but the day grew dark.

"So we had to turn around and come back out," said the undersheriff, stating that's why personnel were dispatched again Wednesday morning.

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Rammell’s jury trial set for April 28

PINEDALE (WNE) – The six-person jury trial requested by veterinarian Dr. Rex Rammell, of Rock Springs, is set now for Wednesday, April 28, in a Pinedale courtroom.

Rammell pleaded not guilty to having no brand inspections for five horses he brought from Sweetwater County to Sublette County in June 2019. He has argued the brand inspection law is unconstitutional and violates his right against search and seizure.

Sublette County Circuit Court Judge Curt Haws transferred the case most recently to 3rd District Circuit Judge Gregory Corpening, who presided over the Feb. 17 pretrial video conference with Rammell and deputy county attorney Stan Cannon.

Rammel mailed an appeal to 9th District Court on Friday from Rock Springs.

He said he is appealing last year’s civil declaratory judgment of presiding 4th District Judge John Fenn, who overturned and remanded a decision by former Magistrate Clay Kainer. Kainer had acted outside his authority without being officially appointed by the Sublette Circuit Court and county commissioners.

Judge Fenn ruled Kainer erred by favoring Rammell’s argument that Deputy Ty Huffman’s report of stopping Rammell was inadmissible evidence. Rammell said he wants to delay the trial while his District Court civil action – not received by press time – is reviewed.

Cannon said he would object to Rammell’s motion.

“This case has gone on a really long time and to the point where, if it’s going to trial, it’s time to get it there,” Judge Corpening said.

Rammell declined to waive his right to counsel, adding he needed more time for questions than he had that day.

Judge Corpening set another pretrial session for Monday, March 22, at 2 p.m.

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Wyoming lawmakers weighing shield law to protect confidential sources

CHEYENNE (WNE) – Wyoming could soon join the vast majority of U.S. states that have some sort of protections for journalists’ use of confidential sources, if a bill discussed by a legislative committee Thursday becomes law.

Known as a “shield law,” House Bill 103 would protect journalists in Wyoming from being held in contempt of court for refusing to disclose a confidential source or piece of information during a legal proceeding.

Although there is no federal shield law, 40 states have some sort of journalist protections in state statute, along with eight other states that have court-issued protections.

Wyoming and Hawaii, which previously had a shield law that expired in 2015, are the only states without any sort of existing protections.

The bill was sponsored by state Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, who told his fellow members of the House Judiciary Committee that shield laws are essential to have a free press. It would also provide protection to people who otherwise might be unwilling to provide important information for a news story, he said.

“It’s in the public interest overall to know (the information), regardless if they know the source,” Zwonitzer said. “So when people are given anonymity, they are more likely to say, ‘Here’s what’s really going on.’”

The bill had the backing of several journalists who testified during the meeting. Brian Martin, managing editor of the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, noted without a shield law, journalists are at risk of being caught between the promise of anonymity to a source and the potential violation of a court order.

Josh Wolfson, editor of the Casper Star-Tribune, said while shield laws are often characterized as protections for journalists, they are also crucial protections of the public’s right to know.

 
 

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