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State jurisdiction at issue in Wyoming murder case

Attorneys for a member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe are questioning whether the state of Wyoming has jurisdiction to try him for murder.

Andrew John Yellowbear is facing the death penalty in Fremont County for the murder of Marcella Hope Yellowbear, who was a member of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe. The July 3, 2004, incident occurred in Riverton.

Yellowbear's lawyers say Riverton is considered Indian Country so the state doesn't have authority to prosecute a crime involving an Indian offender and an Indian victim. A recent case from Utah, in which an appeals court said the state lacked jurisdiction over the reservation of a terminated tribe, could set precedent.

But the county's attorney says federal law took Riverton out of the Wind River Reservation. The state Supreme Court has ruled that Riverton falls under state jurisdiction.

Get the Story:
Yellowbear lawyers challenge state authority (The Casper Star-Tribune 11/17)

Utah Indian Country Decision:
State v. Reber (November 10, 2005)

Related Stories:
Utah court blocks state jurisdiction on hunting (11/11)
Witness dispute in tribal member's murder trial (10/19)
Judge agrees to move tribal member's murder trial (08/23)