By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
A man sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of kidnap and sexual assault more than 25 years ago has lost in his attempt to be held in a lower-security facility.
The Wyoming Supreme Court on Friday rejected the appeal of Chester Loyde Bird, who was trying to win eligibility to be held at a facility such as the Wyoming Honor Farm in Riverton or Honor Conservation Camp in Newcastle.
Bird in 1994 was arrested on allegations he kidnapped a woman outside of a Campbell County grocery store at knife-point, forced her into her car and raped her. He was on parole for a previous crime at the time.
Bird pleaded guilty to charges of kidnapping and first-degree sexual assault. He was determined to be a habitual criminal and was sentenced to serve two life terms in prison.
In January 2020, Bird, who is held at the Wyoming State Penitentiary in Rawlins, was the subject of an annual “inmate reclassification” and he said his score indicated he should be eligible for “minimum custody.”
However, the Department of Corrections classified him as “medium custody,” meaning he would not be eligible to be held in facilities such as the Honor Farm or Conservation Camp.
Bird, in a lawsuit filed in state district court, said the policies and procedures the DOC used to change his classification are actually administrative rules and should have been filed with the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office, but were not.
As a result, Bird argued, the policies are in violation of the state’s Administrative Procedure Act and null and void.
However, the state district court dismissed Bird’s argument, saying the only type of rules that have to be filed with the Secretary of State’s office are rules for the internal management of institutions under the DOC.
Justices unanimously agreed with the lower court that the policies governing inmate classification do not have to be filed with the Secretary of State’s office, so Bird’s argument is moot.
“Mr. Bird has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted,” said the opinion, written by Justice Kari Gray.