By Stephen Dow
Via- Wyoming News Exchange
BUFFALO — The Wyoming Supreme Court has affirmed Fourth Judicial District Court Judge William Edelman’s ruling in the re-sentencing of convicted murderer and robber Donald C. Davis last year.
“Considering the re-sentencing proceedings in their entirety, it is apparent that the court had much evidence before it and balanced various considerations when it re-sentenced Mr. Davis,” the court ruled last week. “The court’s 12- to 50-year aggravated robbery sentence reflects not just the court’s belief that ‘it is not appropriate to release Mr. Davis immediately, as there are a number of services that he should receive the benefit of before being placed upon supervision’ but a broader determination that Mr. Davis is not ready for release and requires further rehabilitation.”
With Edelman’s sentencing affirmed, Davis will continue serving his 12-to-50-year sentence in the Wyoming State Penitentiary in Rawlins for aggravated robbery.
In 1982, when Davis was 17 years old, he and a friend picked up, robbed and murdered hitchhiker Randall Shopteese. Shopteese’s body was found on Mayoworth Road between Buffalo and Kaycee.
Davis pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, felony murder and aggravated robbery. He was sentenced to life without parole for murder, along with an additional 20 to 50 years for the robbery.
A change in Wyoming law while Davis was in prison made him eligible for parole after he had served 25 years. He was paroled from his life sentence in 2015 and began his 20-to-50-year sentence for aggravated robbery.
In July 2016, Davis was granted a new sentencing hearing after decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court and the state’s high court modified sentencing guidelines for minors tried as adults. At that hearing, Edelman ruled that the original sentence was appropriate and re-sentenced Davis to 20 to 50 years in prison.
Davis’ defense team appealed the ruling, and in April 2018 the state Supreme Court reversed Davis’ sentencing, concluding that the district court abused its discretion by weighing Davis’ youth as an aggravating instead of mitigating factor. That sent the case back to district court for re-sentencing.
The re-sentencing hearing was held on Feb. 28, 2019, and after a months-long deliberation, Edelman ruled on Dec. 6, 2019, that Davis was not an appropriate candidate for parole and re-sentenced him to 12 to 50 years.
In appealing his re-sentencing to the state Supreme Court, Davis’ defense team argued that the district court had abused its discretion through the sentence, which they argued was an unconstitutional de facto life sentence.
Justices ruled that the district court did not abuse its discretion and that the sentence is constitutional.