A 24-year-old Laramie man arrested on a second-degree murder is being held on a $150,000 cash bond.
Albany County Circuit Court Judge Robert Castor set the bond amount at Artem Day’s initial appearance Monday morning.
The most Day spoke at Monday’s hearing was when Castor asked the defendant if he expects to lose his job as a result of the murder charge pending against him.
“I believe so,” Day responded.
Day has also been charged with manslaughter and sexual battery in regard to the March 2018 death of a woman.
Day was finally arrested 15 months after her death following what the Laramie Police Department described in a Friday press release as a “lengthy and intensive investigation.”
If convicted of murder, Day would be sentenced to 20 years to life imprisonment.
However, details of the case, including the identity of the victim, are sparse. On Friday, Castor ordered court documents to be withheld from the Laramie Boomerang because Day was charged with sexual battery.
The court’s handling of the case illustrates how Wyoming circuit courts, including Albany County’s, continue to treat public access to sexual assault cases inconsistently with the rules established in 2014 by the Wyoming Supreme Court, which determined that “First Amendment right of access attaches to judicial documents.”
The state’s high court has been adamant that the court documents for defendants in sexual assault cases, even while pending in Circuit Court, must remain open to the public.
“If the circuit court believes there is a compelling interest in further limiting the information available to the public, it must first hold a hearing at which members of the public have been given the opportunity to refute any allegations that the case must be closed,” the Wyoming Supreme Court said. “Following the hearing, the circuit court must find that there is a compelling interest in closing the court proceedings and sealing the case file which is essential to preserve higher values, and that any action taken is narrowly tailored to serve that compelling interest.”
That ruling came, in part, because circuit courts had requested guidance on the issue.
“Our ruling will ensure uniformity in the statute’s application throughout the state,” the Supreme Court said in 2014.
It has not.
Handling of sexual assault cases is made problematic by a Wyoming law that states that, when a person is charged with a sex crime, “neither the names of the alleged actor or the victim of the charged offense nor any other information reasonably likely to disclose the identity of the victim shall be released or negligently allowed to be released to the public by any public employee” until a Circuit Court judge has established probable cause during a preliminary hearing.
A lawsuit regarding that statute went to the Wyoming Supreme Court in 2014.
The court, while hinting the statute likely violates the U.S. Constitution’s first amendment, decided not to throw out the law.
Instead, the justices used their 2014 decision to provide circuit courts with a step-by-step plan on how to stay compliant with the law without violating the public’s access to court records and proceedings.
“The proceedings, like judicial documents, must generally remain open to the public,” the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled. “To avoid revealing the name of the defendant during a hearing, the circuit court judge or magistrate may use initials in the place of the name when required to name the defendant in open court.”
While Castor has not allowed Day’s court records to be released, he didn’t avoid using the defendant’s name Monday, repeatedly referring to him as “Mr. Day” — not his initials.
And while Castor refused access to the court records on the grounds that a sexual assault defendant’s name shall not be revealed “by any public employee” while charges are pending in Circuit Court, LPD announced Day’s name and charges with the approval of Albany County Attorney Peggy Trent.
The Wyoming Supreme Court ruled “attorneys filing documents in the case should provide the clerk’s office with redacted and unredacted versions of each filing to ensure confidentiality as required by the statute.”
Albany County Circuit Court Clerk Jennifer Beeston said Friday prosecutors had not filed redacted versions of court documents.
However, the Wyoming Supreme Court could be partially to blame for that.
In the wake of 2014 court decision, Board of Judicial Policy and Administration codified the ruling in 2015 by requiring circuit courts to issue a “uniform order regarding filing and processing of sexual assault cases” requiring attorneys to file redacted and unredacted version of court documents in sexual assault cases.
However, the language of that uniform order, which was signed off by the Supreme Court, neglects to account for how sexual battery should be handled.
Sexual battery is the sole misdemeanor covered by the Wyoming statute regarding redaction of defendants’ names. The 2015 redaction rule only instructed attorneys to file redacted documents in “felony sexual assault cases.”
So while the 2014 Supreme Court opinion suggests prosecutors need to file redacted versions of sexual battery charges, Castor’s uniform order, which conforms to state language, does not.
The Supreme Court ordered all judges to issue the uniform order in 2015, but Castor’s order is signed Feb. 12, 2019. His order was signed 4 days after the Laramie Boomerang reported the Albany County circuit court had not properly released the court documents of former UW football player Carl Granderson, who was charged with third-degree sexual assault, in compliance with the 2015 rule.