Bennett, running unopposed, plans to maintain business-as-usual, address ongoing challenges | County
SHERIDAN — Sheridan County and Prosecuting Attorney Dianna Bennett, one of three county candidates running unopposed this primary election season, hopes to spend her next term maintaining an efficient office and continuing to manage the challenges facing many prosecutors across the state, including high numbers of involuntary commitments, trouble hiring and some turnover in judges.
Although she said she never set out to become a career prosecutor, Bennett has spent the past 22 years in the Sheridan County and Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, first as a deputy and, with her election in 2018, as the office’s highest prosecutor. It can be thankless work, she said — in contrast to other lawyerly endeavors, there is no chance of a multimillion dollar settlement from which she’d be able to collect legal fees — but Bennett said she enjoys it.
“I like what I do, and I’d like to see another term,” Bennett said.
Currently, Bennett said her office operates as an efficient team, with four deputy prosecutors and support staff. Although she said it would always be helpful to hire another support staff person or attorney, Bennett doesn’t have any big changes planned after the 2022 election.
Nevertheless, Bennett said, ongoing challenges remain for her office and for prosecutors across the state. Her office is currently handling some major cases, including the murder trial of 15-year-old Christian Torres and the Clayvin Herrera case, which will return to Sheridan County Circuit Court after an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Prosecutors across the state are also plagued by ongoing problems related to Title 25, Wyoming’s involuntary commitment statute, Bennett explained. Intended to detain people who pose a danger to themselves or others, the law tasks prosecutors to represent the state in Title 25 proceedings, or argue for the involuntary commitment of an individual in a mental health crisis. But the law is not uniformly imposed across the state, Bennett said, and Sheridan County sees a lot of involuntary commitments. Bennett expressed concerns about the ongoing and significant number of people involuntarily committed in the county and how the decrease in inpatient acute psychiatric beds at the Sheridan Veterans Affairs Health Care System might increase Title 25 detentions.
Bennett also worries about challenges hiring new attorneys. Although Bennett was successful in hiring an additional deputy prosecutor during her first term, she said many county attorneys have trouble hiring because jobs with cities or the state have better salaries and benefits than financially restrained, county-based work. At the moment, Bennett said another attorney would be helpful but there’s likely not enough money in the budget to support the addition to her staff.
Similarly, Bennett said, there has been a high level of turnover in judges across the state. The appointment of then-4th-Judicial-District-Court Judge John Fenn to the Wyoming Supreme Court in December 2021 resulted in a three-month vacancy in the county’s felony criminal court and a significant backlog. Fourth Judicial District Court Judge William Edelman’s departure from the bench in July may cause similar issues. After those two positions are filled, however, Bennett anticipates a relatively stable local judiciary.
Despite these issues, Bennett said her office is handling its substantial workload while adhering to ethical guidelines.
“We want to be fair and consistent…We have a lot of discussion among the attorneys in our office [about that],” Bennett said.
Given her lack of opposition in this year’s election, Bennett is poised to continue that practice into 2026.
Margaret O’Hara is a reporter at The Sheridan Press.