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Court hears appeal arguments in 2009 killing of Sheridan man

Jun 12, 2014 - By Ben Neary, The Associated Press

CHEYENNE -- A lawyer for a Sheridan man serving life for his role in a home invasion killing urged the Wyoming Supreme Court on Wednesday to throw out his sentence.

Wyatt Bear Cloud was originally sentenced to life in prison in the 2009 killing of Sheridan businessman Robert Ernst. Bear Cloud was 16 when he and two other teenagers broke into Ernst's home and one of the other teens shot Ernst with a stolen pistol.

The U.S. Supreme Court banned mandatory life sentences for juvenile offenders in 2012. In response, a state judge resentenced Bear Cloud last summer to life in prison but allowed him the chance for parole after 25 years for the killing and about 10 more years on a burglary conviction.

Cheyenne lawyer Deborah Roden urged the court to rule that Bear Cloud's revised sentence still amounts to an unconstitutional life sentence given his age and life expectancy in prison. She cited in her written brief a Michigan study that found the life expectancy of inmates who started serving their sentences as juveniles was 50.6 years.

Roden said it's likely that Bear Cloud will die at age 50, while he wouldn't be eligible for parole until 61 at the earliest.

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