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SHERIDAN — The Wyoming Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today regarding Wyatt Bear Cloud’s appeal of the sentence assigned in Sheridan’s 4th Judicial District Court earlier this year. Bear Cloud, along with two other teenagers, participated in the home invasion killing of Sheridan businessman Robert Ernst.
Bear Cloud pleaded guilty to first degree murder for the 2009 incident and was sentenced to life in prison according to law in 2011, but the U.S. Supreme Court later ruled juveniles should be afforded a meaningful possibility of parole. He was resentenced by Judge John Fenn in Sheridan County’s 4th Judicial District Court last year.
For the charge of aggravated burglary, Bear Cloud was given a new sentence of 20-25 years, life in prison according to law (a mandatory sentence, even for juveniles) for accessory to first-degree murder with possibility of parole after 25 years to be served consecutively with the burglary sentence.
He also faces 20-25 years in prison for conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary to be served concurrently with the life sentence.
Bear Cloud’s attorney argued in a brief submitted to the state Supreme Court that the sentence requires Bear Cloud to serve a minimum 45 years before having a meaningful opportunity for release.
The appeal asks the state’s Supreme Court to determine whether the consecutive sentence slated to begin after parole constitutes a de facto sentence of life without parole. Other questions raised include whether it is appropriate for an accomplice to a crime to be treated as the triggerman when the accomplice was a juvenile at the time the crime was committed and whether 20-25 years for aggravated burglary is an excessive sentence.
The court will hear oral arguments for the appeal case and is expected to later issue a written decision.