- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 3, 2014

RIVERTON, Wyo. (AP) - A judge in Fremont County has refused to dismiss a murder case despite a defense attorney’s argument the State Crime Laboratory has been taking too long to investigate evidence and is impinging upon his client’s right to a speedy trial.

District Court Judge Norman Young instead on Tuesday granted a request by prosecutors for an extension. He moved the trial date for Delight Estelle Sunrhodes, of Arapahoe, from Sept. 15 to Oct. 27.

Young determined the state is acting responsibly with the evidence, The Riverton Ranger reports (https://www.dailyranger.com/).

“It’s a bit of a delicate balance act, balancing the lab’s workload and the defendant’s rights,” Young said.

Sunrhodes and George Jr. Littlethunder III, of Arapahoe, are charged with second-degree murder in the death of Richard Longsoldier. Investigators say the two bludgeoned Longsoldier to death with a hammer at his home in March.

Craig Brian C’Bearing, of Ethete, is charged as an accessory.

The trials for C’Bearing and Littlethunder would move to December or January, the judge said Tuesday.

The crime lab has been analyzing 47 pieces of evidence in the case for blood, fingerprints and DNA. Investigators sent the first items to the lab March 12.

Attorneys for the three defendants say the crime lab still is investigating the evidence. Sunrhodes’ attorney, Devon Petersen, sought dismissal, arguing crime lab analysts did not exercise the “due diligence and good faith” necessary to qualify for a trial.

Wyoming Crime Lab interim deputy director John Jolley testified Tuesday that the lab’s 23 employees examined evidence for 2,600 cases last year.

The lab prioritizes cases that involve public safety and children, or for which evidence is received late, but doesn’t consider a 180-day limit for a defendant to receive a speedy trial, Jolley said.

Petersen argued the lab should be making the case a higher priority.

“They should have put on their calendar, red flag, Sept. 15, we should prioritize this case,” Petersen said.

Fremont County Attorney Michael Bennett requested a continuance for Sunrhodes’s trial.

“Sometimes events beyond a prosecutor’s control make going to trial within the 180 days an impossibility,” Bennett said.

The state acted with due diligence and in good faith and communicated regularly with the crime lab about the evidence, Bennett said.


Information from: The (Riverton, Wyo.) Ranger, https://www.dailyranger.com

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