A Utah federal judge's ruling may force Wyoming to stop selecting federal grand jurors only from counties close to Cheyenne, according to U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer.
Currently jurors are selected from residents of Laramie, Platte, Albany and Goshen counties so jurors don't have to travel far for the sessions in Cheyenne.But Brimmer said it appears that will have to change following last week's ruling by Utah U.S. District Judge Aldon Anderson, who said Wyoming's grand jury selection plan is flawed because it excludes some state residents, including people on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Fremont County.
Anderson's decision came in a Wyoming tax fraud case that was moved to Utah after all three Wyoming judges were disqualified. The defendant in the case argued that the indictment against him was invalid because the Wyoming federal grand jury was chosen regionally.
While the matter is still being studied, "It looks like we're going to have to change our grand jury system to a statewide selection plan," Brimmer said. "That's what we're considering."
Wyoming U.S. Attorney Richard Stacy said the ruling means his office likely will seek new indictments with a new grand jury in about 30 cases that have yet to go to trial.
"The first impact of it is it's going to cost the taxpayers of Wyoming and federal taxpayers a lot of money to redo these cases," Stacy said, adding the process would take a month or two.
The official noted, however, that it is clear the Utah ruling will not affect cases that have already been resolved.
Brimmer said he expects the courts to be deluged with motions from defense attorneys seeking to dismiss indictments affected by the court ruling.
"It's got real problems and ramifications," said the judge.
He added the decision came as something of a surprise because Wyoming's federal grand jury system was approved in 1976 by the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.