Wyoming Inmate With Terminal Cancer Gets Appeal Denied by state Supreme Court
On Thursday, the Wyoming Supreme Court denied an appeal made by Steve Weldon, an inmate at the Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution, who was trying to overturn a district court's ruling.
Weldon, who is 61 years old and has been serving a life sentence since 1990, had in 2017 filed a petition with the Wyoming Board of Parole asking Governor Mark Gordon to commute his sentence.
While a hearing date was set with the parole board, Weldon waived the hearing for an unknown reason.
In 2019, Weldon sent a commutation letter to Gordon, who then sent the letter to the Wyoming Attorney General, who sent it to the parole board, which denied the commutation because the board has a policy of only accepting petitions once every five years.
Weldon then filed a suit against the parole board and Gordon, saying that the commutation process was unconstitutional.
Gordon and the parole board filed a motion to dismiss the case in district court due to Weldon lacking standing, which was granted but was then appealed by Weldon to the Wyoming Supreme Court.
That case was docketed in the Wyoming Supreme Court on Oct. 25, 2021, and after several months, along with one of the lawyers for the state leaving the case, the court issued its opinion.
Weldon's original case was decided in November 1990, where he was sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder, conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance, and aggravated assault and battery.
The specific crime Weldon was in prison for was, according to the court, due to him entering a residence where he deliberately shot a victim in an "execution type circumstance as the fall-out from drug dealing relationships."
In agreeing with the ruling by the lower court, the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled that Weldon didn't have proper standing for his case due to failing to meet two of the four criteria of the Brimmer test.
Those two criteria are, one "The parties have existing and genuine, as distinguished from theoretical, rights or interests," and two, "The controversy must be one upon which the judgment of the court may effectively operate, as distinguished from a debate or argument evoking a purely political, administrative, philosophical or academic conclusion."
The court ruled that Weldon, who was representing himself in this case, didn't meet the first criteria because inmates don't have an implicit right to clemency, therefore "he 'cannot challenge the constitutionality of any procedures available to vindicate an interest in state clemency.'"
For the second criterion, the court said that because a commutation from Gordon is a political issue and not a judicial one, the court doesn't have any ability to intervene in the constitutionality of the law, and they cite a case stating "It is not for the Judicial Branch to determine the standard for [the discretionary exercise of clemency]. If the clemency power is exercised in either too generous or too stingy a way, that calls for political correctives, not judicial intervention."
Weldon sent a letter to the Wyoming Supreme Court on July 25 of this year, which was received on Aug. 2, where he said that he was recently diagnosed with "inoperable terminal cancer and the prognosis is that I have a very limited amount of time before I die."
The letter was sent because Weldon was hoping to expedite his case due to his condition, but because the letter was only received and not filed, the Wyoming Supreme Court clerk's office said that the case was not sped up in any way due to the letter.
While it is unclear what Weldon's current condition is, he is still listed in the Wyoming Department of Correction's inmate registry.