Parole eyed in assault after life sentence overturned

By Emily Mieure

Jackson Hole News&Guide

Via Wyoming News Exchange

JACKSON — After first being sentenced to life in prison for beating his ex-girlfriend, Wyoming inmate Josh Black could be released from prison in less than a year.

Following Black’s countless appeals and the Wyoming Supreme Court overturning his conviction, Black could be paroled as soon as March 2020.

“Myself and my family and friends who support me were shocked and disappointed with how the case ended up being handled,” victim Kelli Windsor said.

Windsor suffered a brain bleed and broken bones during the 2014 assault.

“He came so close to killing me,” she said. “The doctor said if he had hit me one more time I wouldn’t be here.”

About four years into his life sentence at the Wyoming State Penitentiary, Black won an appeal and the Wyoming Supreme Court overturned his assault conviction.

Justices found that prosecutorial misconduct occurred during the original trial. The justices said the state failed to comply with a discovery order and former Teton County Deputy Prosecutor Becket Hinckley made improper comments during his closing arguments.

Black returned to Teton County for a new trial, but instead of moving forward with a jury trial, outgoing Teton County Prosecuting Attorney Steve Weichman offered Black a plea deal.

“He still has a significant criminal past,” Weichman said at a November hearing. “There is something inside Mr. Black that probably scares him. It certainly scares me.”

Windsor disagreed with offering a plea bargain.

“They gave a plea deal without talking to me,” she told the News&Guide. “I would not have agreed to that.”

Windsor said she thought re-trying the case would produce a lengthy sentence similar to the life sentence resulting from the first trial.

“I thought we should go ahead with trial again,” she said. “[Weichman] thought even if we won again, which I think we would have, he was nervous that [Black] would appeal again.”

In the deal with the state Black, 39, pleaded no contest to felony aggravated assault and the state agreed to drop the habitual offender enhancement that was based on past felony convictions in California.

“All the evidence was there,” Windsor said. “There was no doubt in the jury’s mind that Josh was the person who did what he did to me.”

Black was then sentenced to 6 1/2 to 10 years in prison with more than four years of credit for time served.

He was granted parole about two months ago on March 20, according to Wyoming Department of Corrections public information officer Mark Horan.

“The grant is contingent upon Mr. Black completing the Adult Community Corrections (ACC) program,” Horan said. “It appears Mr. Black is in the process of applying to the ACC program and is currently still at the Wyoming State Penitentiary.

“It’s not evident which ACC he’s applied to, or if he’ll get accepted. But if he does go, he would remain on inmate status until he completes the program, and then he will be paroled.”

Windsor worries about Black being integrated back into a community.

“I don’t think he should be allowed that at all,” she said. “He’s a danger to any community, especially women.”

Windsor has moved on with her life, she said, and no longer lives in Teton County. But she said the whole case feels like a miscarriage of justice.

“The reason I pursued this is because I wanted to prevent him from hurting someone else,” she said. “Someone like that doesn’t just change.”