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Lovell Chronicle
Lovell , Wyoming
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January 21, 2010     Lovell Chronicle
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January 21, 2010
 

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6 I The Lovell Chronicle I January 21, 2010 www:LovellChronicle.com Did You Know? Continued from page one Many factors weigh in available to us." She said there are some- times disagreements between different agencies, but the sys- tem works best when every agency works together and com- municates throughout the pro- cess. Lovell Chief of Police Nick Lewis and Sheriff Ken Black- burn agreed that everything works best when every agency does its part. When a case is dismissed, Mickelson said she tries to be specific when noting on the file why each case was dismissed. The Lovell Chronicle has maintained a policy of printing any dismissed cases that were reported on in a previous issue of the Chronicle. Usually the initial printed information is an arrest in the police or sheriffs report. Mickelson reminds residents that the majority of court re- cords are public record, and are available to view at the Circuit Court Clerk's office at the Lovell Annex. Only District Court cas- es involving juveniles and some sex offenses are not available to view. Mickelson and Jim Hallman are the two deputy county attor- neys that assist County Attor- ney Georgia Antley Hunt with the everyday responsibilities of the office. The office also em- ploys a secretary and legal as- sistant Erin Campbell. Antley Hunt .handles the more high-profile criminal cas- es including sex crimes as well as county issues like roads and land contracts. Mickelson gen- erally handles circuit (misde- meanor) and district (felony) court cases from the north end of the county, as well as juve- nile cases, which are handled in district court. Hallman handles cases from the south end cir- cuit and district court and also handles triage cases, which are cases submitted by law enforce- ment with a request for review or direction from the county at- torney. The three employees of the office also help each other with caseload, Mickelson said. The office has no current record of the amount of cases that have passed through the office, but they are working to compile the information in the future, Ant- ley Hunt said. It is often hard for members of the public who may be new to the court system to navigate it, Mickelson said. "It's hard to understand the system until you're involved in it," Mickelson said. The county at- torney's office is available to answer questions from the public, but they can- not give legal advice to citizens about civil matters, Mickelson said. Mickelson is available to meet at the Lovell Annex on most Mondays, she said, and sometimes takes appointments through the week in the north end of the county. A member of the county attorney's office is generally available on Thurs- days and Fridays for appoint- ments in Basin, she said. Con- tact the office at 568-2436 for more information or to schedule an appointment. The county attorney's office and other agencies are work- ing with Big Horn County news- papers to provide updates and little-known facts about their services. This is an effort to edu- cate the public about commonly asked questions and to help cit- izens to know their rights and what to expect when working with these agencies. KARLA POMEROY Big Horn County Attorney Georgia Antley Hunt (seated) and her staff (l-r standing) Kim Mickelson, Erin Campbell and Jim Hallman, prosecute cases and handle civil matters for the county commissioners. The first step: a law enforcement perspective Law enforcement is an inte- gral piece of the justice system. Submitting cases for prosecu- tion is a major responsibility of the Big Horn County Sheriffs Office and municipal police de- partments. Preparing and submitting cases is something that county deputies take seriously, accord- ing to Sheriff Ken Blackburn. "Law enforcement inves- tigates crimes. It's our job to get together as much evidence as we can and submit it to the county attorney's office," Black- burn said, adding that multiple agencies must work together to bring a case to trial, and then gain a conviction. Some cases are dismissed even though a law enforcement officer might think it has a good chance of gaining a conviction. "Sometimes people don't realize that the cops on the street aren't the ones calling the shots," he said. "What might be very clear in the heat of the bat- tle could become cloudy in the courtroom." He mentioned a number of efforts he has made recently to improve the quality of investi- gations and communication be- tween all agencies involved. The sheriffs department hired Keri Wilske as a crime scene technician who special- izes in evidence collection and management. Her duties include submitting evidence to the state crime lab and traveling to the lab to keep the department up- to-date. Brent Godfrey is also a crime scene specialist, Black- burn said. Wilske and Godfrey specialize in evidence collection and storage and help with the extra work required for investi- gations taking some of the pres- sure off of deputies who are load- ed with their usual casework. Blackburn said the sheriffs department has a weekly meet- ing with the county attorney's office to talk about how to im- prove communication and talk about what evidence the coun- ty attorney's office would like to see submitted. Any other agen- cies involved with the process are encouraged to attend, he said. "Those meetings help us be more effective with cases," Blackburn said. Blackburn added that he strives to remain objective when dealing with investigations. He said he has excused him- self from a case several times to avoid a conflict of interest be- cause a family member was in- volved with minor charges. "It's important to be consis- tent, equal and fair," Blackburn said. selection Cases can be Possible order of events ... ) I I | dismissed because: Victim is not willing to cooperate Cases are sometimes dismissed based on if there is a victim of the crime, and the victim is not willing to cooperate, Mickel- son said. Like other reasons to dismiss a case, a victim's willingness is a factor, but doesn't always stop prosecution, she said. Seriousness of the crime Cases might be dismissed based on the seriousness of the crime. Better way to handle the case Some cases are dismissed if there is a better way to handle the case, Mickel- son said, like rehab instead of jail time for someone involved with an addiction problem. Defendant receives a deferred sentence The prosecution dismisses some cases if the defendant receives a deferred sen- tence under Wyoming Statute 7-13-301. A deferred sentence means the defen- dant is placed on probation for a period of time and once probation is complete, the subject is clear of the charges. If the subject violates probation terms, the court can revoke the deferred sentence and enter a guilty plea, followed by sentenc- ing, Mickelson said. A deferred sentence under 7-13-301 is only permitted one time per person. Mick- elson said the office grants deferred sen- tences for misdemeanors and some felo- nies, weighing a number of factors in their decision. The county attorney's office and judge must approve the request before it is granted. She said the.office usu- ally communicates with law enforcement about which cases should be granted a deferred sentence. Informal plea agreement with defendant Cases are (not too often) dismissed based on an informal plea agreement with a defendant. Involve a juvenile Some cases are dismissed and some just appear to have been dismissed be- cause they involve a juvenile - either as the defendant or vitlm.Hme of these dismissed cases might tlIn be re-filed in juvenile court. The case is then sealed and must remain confidential according to Wyoming statutes. Mickelson said there are other advan- tages to re-filing some cases in juvenile court because it is a part of district court, which allows the Department of Family Services to get involved. DFS can serve as a probation officer in the case of a ju- venile delinquent or as a case planner if the juvenile is a possible victim. DFS can also provide counseling and substance abuse help for family members and coor- dination with schools. If a case is filed (or dismissed in circuit court then re-filed) in juvenile court, of- ficials may not confirm nor deny the exis- tence of the case. "The case may be dismissed, but that doesn't mean there's not something else going on with it," Mickelson said. Evidentiary materials not submitted on time A case could be dismissed if the county attorney's office doesn't submit evidentia- ry materials to the defense on the court's timeline, Mickelson said. Missing facts Prosecutors dismiss some cases be- cause they are missing the facts needed to prove each element required for a con- viction (that the crime occurred, that the defendant committed the crime, time and place). The county attorney's office has 180 days after the arraignment to prosecute the case. Facts aren't there for conviction Sometimes the facts just aren't there, Mickelson said. If a law enforcement offi- cer submits a case that doesn't look like it has sufficient evidence to gain a convic- tion, the county attomey's office will dis- miss the case, sometimes with the stated reason of "choosing not to prosecute at this time." If the case is dismissed without prejudice, it can be re-filed at a later date. Because Wyoming has no statute of limitations on how long a criminal case dismissed without prejudice may be eligible to be re- filed, prosecutors may choose to do so in the future if more evidence is presented. Friends of the Basin Libra W '00krt From The Heart" FUNDRA1SER Corningin February Artists please start thinking now about the art you would like to showcase and sell. Art must be framed and matted, lfyou have any questions please contact Lisa Chestnut or Barbara Anne Greene. Contact the Ubrary for details at 568-2388 Sat., Feb. 20 6-9 p.m. v -%-'-' Greybull Elks Club Tickets $20 at Greybull Chamber, Pr0bst and B & S Volunteers t"arts Sun., Jan. 31, 1 pin .Ei Everyone welcome, com eoutand hav esomefun. lships "f -a on ormail'pa_ymen, to I ILl 1 I Rod  Gun Club, B 221, Lovell, WY 82431 I . .....................................................