Wyoming Judge dismisses woman's appeal in 1977 shooting Woman was convicted of murdering her husband

By Ben Neary

Associated Press

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) -- A Wyoming woman convicted of murdering her husband nearly 30 years after he was shot to death failed to show that her prosecution after so many years violated her constitutional right to a speedy trial, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer of Cheyenne on Dec. 17 granted a request from the Wyoming Attorney General's Office to dismiss a federal appeal filed by Rita Ann Humphrey.

Jack Humphrey was found shot to death in the couple's home in Evansville in 1977.

Rita Ann Humphrey was indicted on a charge of first-degree murder in her husband's death in 1980. However, a state judge that year dismissed the case against her, saying it was too weak to go to trial.

State prosecutors in 2004 charged Humphrey for the second time with killing her husband. A state district judge that year dismissed that charge, saying it violated her right to a speedy trial.

However, the Wyoming Supreme Court reversed the district judge's decision in late 2006 and reinstated the charge.

The state Supreme Court ruled that the 24 years that passed between the time the first murder charge against Humphrey was dismissed and the filing of the second charge in 2004 should not be considered in determining her right to a speedy trial.

Humphrey was convicted of second-degree murder in 2006 and is serving a sentence of 25 to 40 years at the women's prison in Lusk.

Courselle argued to Brimmer at a court hearing in October that nothing happened in the case for nearly 20 years. She said it languished until Jack Humphrey's sister, Bonnie Humphrey, was elected mayor of Evansville in the late 1990s.

Courselle told Brimmer that Bonnie Humphrey hired Zach Gentile as Evansville police chief. Courselle said Gentile launched a new investigation that led to the new charges against Rita Ann Humphrey.

Courselle said it was impossible for Humphrey to get a fair trial after so many years because witnesses had died and reports and evidence in the case had disappeared. She argued that it was a "monumental mistake" for the state Supreme Court to allow the second charge against her to proceed to trial.

However, Brimmer ruled that Humphrey failed to show the Wyoming Supreme Court's ruling went against established federal law.

Published: Wed, Dec 29, 2010