U.S. Tenth Circuit - The FindLaw 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Life-Plus Affirmed for 2010 Murder of Utah Deputy

For Roberto Roman, the criminal justice system must seem unreal. Reading the recent Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in his case, it's easy to see why.

After Roman confessed to the murder of a Utah sheriff's deputy, he then was acquitted of the murder (after a state-court jury trial where he testified that the deputy's brother, who died of a drug overdose a few months after his sister's death, and who just so happened to be riding along in the car with Roman and doing meth, murdered his own sister). Although Roman was acquitted in state court, federal charges were brought against him, and Roman was convicted for the murder in federal district court. He was sentenced to life plus 80 years.

Appeal Affirms Judgment

On appeal, Roman argued that the district court erred in not allowing in evidence of his state-court acquittal. Despite the fact that Roman claimed to only be seeking to introduce it to rebut certain evidence via attacking the credibility of the offering witness, an officer Roman basically claimed to harbor a vendetta due to the state-court loss.

The appellate court disagreed with Roman, explaining that there was no error in failing to allow the evidence of the state-court acquittal because there was other means of rebutting the evidence, and the evidence was just too prejudicial to the state's case.

Roman also challenged the prosecution on grounds of double jeopardy, though conceding the fact that SCOTUS has clearly established the dual-sovereignty rule, and preserving the issue for cert. to the High Court.

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