CHEYENNE — A judge in Lander has ordered authorities not to publicly identify a homicide victim or the man accused of killing him.
Circuit Judge Robert B. Denhardt’s order forbids release of information about the fatal shooting Tuesday in Lander.
Denhardt apparently is relying on a Wyoming law that specifies public employees may not release the identity of a person accused of sex crimes unless charges are filed in district court. Denhardt’s office said Thursday he wasn’t available for comment.
The Fremont County Attorney’s Office provided a redacted copy of Denhardt’s order that didn’t include the state statute he was relying on to seal the file.
Denhardt’s secrecy order is similar to an order in the case of a man accused of involvement in the abduction of a young girl in Glenrock this summer. In that case, Wyoming media organizations are challenging the constitutionality of the secrecy provision affecting sex crime cases.
Proceedings against Robert J. Parks, 22, of Casper were kept secret until his case advanced from circuit court to district court.
The Wyoming Press Association, several Wyoming newspapers and The Associated Press filed a lawsuit challenging the closure in Parks’ case. The challenge is pending before District Judge Keith Kautz of Torrington.
Lander Police Chief Jim Carey and Fremont County Coroner Ed McAuslan both said Thursday that Denhardt’s order prevented them from releasing identities in the Lander case. Carey said search warrant information was covered by the judge’s secrecy order.
In response to a reporter’s comment that the only provision of state law that would support sealing a court file was the one involving sex crimes, Carey responded, “That’s correct.”
The Riverton Ranger reported that police were dispatched Tuesday morning to a residence where a shooting occurred.
Carey said a pistol was used in the shooting and that the defendant was being held at the Fremont County Detention center in Lander. He said he didn’t know if the man had an attorney.
Bruce Moats, an attorney for the press association, said Thursday he intended to file a memo with Kautz including a statement from an AP reporter denied information about the Lander case.
“History has taught us that secret courts do not serve either the people caught up in the system, or the public,” Moats said.