CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - A federal appeals court on Monday denied a request from a Wyoming prison inmate to participate in a legal dispute over the boundary of the Wind River Indian Reservation.
The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver on Monday denied a request from Andrew Yellowbear, Jr., to file a friend-of-the-court brief. Yellowbear, a member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe, is serving a life sentence in connection with the 2004 murder of his infant daughter in Riverton.
The court denied Yellowbear’s request to get involved in an appeal in which the state of Wyoming is challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s determination that lands around Riverton remain legally “Indian Country.”
Last year, Wyoming officials asked the appeals court in Denver to overturn the EPA’s 2013 determination that Riverton and surrounding areas were on reservation land. The agency’s determination came in response to an application from the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes, which share the reservation, to treat them in a manner similar to a state for purposes of administering the federal Clean Air Act.
Wyoming, as well as Riverton and Fremont County governments, opposes the federal agency’s boundary determination, saying it would have effects on provision of government services, criminal jurisdiction and taxation in the disputed area. The Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes are supporting the EPA decision.
Yellowbear’s attorney, Diane Courselle, wrote that her client should be allowed to argue against the state’s position, since “whether Riverton is in ‘Indian Country’ is crucial to the determination of whether Wyoming had jurisdiction to prosecute Mr. Yellowbear or whether the United States has exclusive jurisdiction.”
State and federal courts already have rejected Yellowbear’s claims that the state lacked authority to prosecute him on the grounds that his daughter was killed in Indian Country. An attempt to reach Courselle, a professor at the University of Wyoming, for comment on Monday was not immediately successful.
The Northern Arapaho Tribe had argued against allowing Yellowbear to file arguments in the case.
“Andrew Yellowbear’s guilt, legal issues and appeals were decided long ago,” Darrell O’Neal, a member of the Northern Arapaho Business Council, said in a prepared statement on Monday. “That’s over and done.”
O’Neal stated that combining Yellowbear’s case with the Northern Arapaho efforts to have the reservation treated as a state by federal regulators wouldn’t serve the tribe’s interests.
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