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My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.
|Busy Day for the Colorado Supremes|
The Colorado Supreme Court handed down a couple high-profile decisions yesterday. In one, the 3-2 Court overturned a jury’s sentence of death for Robert Harlan and ordered life imprisonment without parole. In the other, the Court by 4-1 tossed out a conviction of Felony Murder for Lisl Auman, and ordered a new trial for her
While I find the nature of Robert Harlan’s crime—-the repeated raping of Rhonda Maloney, the shooting and paralyzing of Jaquie Creazzo when she tried to get Maloney to a police station, and the subsequent murder and abandonment of Moloney—-heinous enough to fit the statutory threshold for the death sentence, and while I think the assumption that a Christian juror was unduly influenced by another juror’s reading of Leviticus to be laughable (what? A Christian who could be influenced by Scripture wouldn’t already know “an eye for an eye”?), there is, from a strictly legal sense, good grounds for this decision. Given that the Court has acted before to stop jurors from consulting a dictionary or the internet during deliberations, I think it is fair to assume that typical Colorado jury instructions to limit your consideration to evidence presented during trial actually mean just that. Unfortunate, perhaps, but those are the rules, and this jury did operate outside those rules.
However, I am not quite so at ease with the decision in the Auman case. To recap the crime: Auman recruited a couple friends to help her break into an ex-boyfriend’s room to get back some of her stuff; when the police were alerted, Auman and Matthaeus Jaehnig fled in a stolen Trans Am; during the pursuit, Jaehnig took out an assault rifle and fired on the police while Auman took the wheel; they eventually stopped at a friend’s apartment and hid; when the police arrived Auman gave herself up, but refused to tell the police where her accomplice was hidden; so when Officer Bruce VanderJagt peered around a corner to look for Jaehnig, he had no forewarning of Jaehnig’s presence and was shot dead. The Court overturned the Felony Murder conviction because, it said, “the proof of the predicate crime is just as important an element . . . as proof of the murder.” Therefore “. . .the erroneous theft instruction may have deprived Auman to her right to a full and fair jury consideration of her defense to burglary.”
Now, I understand the Felony Murder law is fairly narrowly constructed to limit the number of predicate crimes which could be considered a precedent to murder, and so certainly a proper consideration of the burglary would be important. IF THAT WERE THE ONLY PREDICATE CRIME! It seems to me that Auman should have also been held for conspiracy, possession of a stolen vehicle, fleeing the scene of a crime, failure to obey a lawfully given order, probably reckless driving, conspiracy to aid in the commission of attempted murder (if holding the wheel while Jaehnig is shooting isn’t “aid”, I’m note sure what would be), and aiding and abetting a suspect by not revealing his location to police. At some point I’m sure a couple weapons charges could be thrown in the mix, as well. So it would seem to me that, even though the jury instructions transposed a word or two, there was still plenty of reason to think that Auman was FULLY complicit and should be held FULLY culpable for the murder of Officer Bruce VanderJagt.
Also of disturbing nature is the fawning coverage the News gave to Auman and to Auman’s family in today’s edition. I realize this had become a bit of a causus celebre, but could we maybe, just a little, realize that the VanderJagt family has been through a much more horrible ordeal, and that Auman is hardly an innocent in this whole affair.