Colo. Supreme Court Reverses Lisl Auman's Felony Murder Conviction
The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday reversed the felony murder conviction and life sentence of 29-year-old Lisl Auman, who was found guilty of murder even though she was handcuffed and in a police car when an accomplice shot and killed a police officer.
The high court ruled that improper jury instructions may have deprived Auman of her right to a full and fair jury trial on a second-degree burglary charge, reversing her conviction for felony murder -- which was based on the burglary conviction.
Great news for Lisl Auman. However, as the Court upheld the felony murder rule, even when the crime occurs in flight, she will have to stand trial again, unless the Denver District Attorney and the defense can work out a deal. I would hope for time served. And that she be granted bail pending her new trial.
From the opinion:
In this felony-murder case, the Supreme Court holds that, as a matter of law, a defendant’s arrest, by itself, does not terminate a coparticipant’s liability for felony murder when a death occurs at the hands of another participant who remains in flight. Whether a coparticipant’s arrest terminates his or her immediate flight from the commission of the predicate felony while another participant remains in flight is a question for the jury to decide. In this case, the Court holds that the defendant’s liability for felony-murder was properly left to the jury.
Because proof of the predicate crime is an essential element of the crime of felony-murder, the Court also determines whether an admittedly erroneous theft instruction requires reversal of the defendant’s second degree burglary conviction.
This crime served as the predicate crime for the defendant’s
felonymurder conviction. Based upon a review of the record, the Court concludes that the improper theft instruction may have deprived the defendant of her right to a full and fair jury consideration of her defense to burglary. The Court therefore reverses the defendant’s conviction for second degree burglary and, in turn, reverses her conviction for felony murder, which conviction was based upon the burglary conviction, and remands the case for a new trial.
Major credit goes to her public defender, Kathleen Lord, and to Norm Mueller and Rachel Bellis of Haddon, Foreman et.al. who wrote the Amicus brief for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Original Post: 6:47 am
The Colorado Supreme Court is going to release its opinion in the Lisl Auman felony murder case today. It is a case of grave injustice. Lisl Auman was handcuffed and in police custody at the time of the crime, yet under the felony-murder rule , inherited from and long since abandoned by England, she was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Lisl Auman was 20 years old. She has no prior criminal record. Matthaeus Jaehnig was a skinhead rascist with a long record. She had been handcuffed for ten minutes in the back of the police car when Jaehnig unexpectedly shot the officer. Why should Lisl Auman spend the rest of her life in prison, without the possibility of parole?
It's sad that one of her strongest champions, Hunter Thompson, won't be around to hear the outcome. But you can bet he's watching from wherever he is. It was Hunter that grabbed onto criminal defense lawyers Gerry Goldstein of San Antonio and Aspen and Jerry Lefcourt of New York City, two of the best criminal defense lawyers around, to take up her case, and work along with Kathleen Lord, her public defender. And now, tomorrow's the day.
Here's some of what Hunter has written about the case in the past.
I don't do this very often -- Never, in fact -- but this case is such an outrage that it haunts me & gives me bad dreams at night. I am not a Criminal Lawyer, but I have what might be called "a very strong background" in the Criminal Justice System & many of my friends & associates are widely known as the best legal minds in that cruel & deadly business.
It is no place for amateurs, and even seasoned professionals can make mistakes that are often fatal. The System can grind up the Innocent as well as the Guilty, and that is what I believe happened to 20-year-old Lisl Auman, who was unjustly found guilty of murder and sent to prison for the rest of her Life Without Parole.
In all my experience with Courts & Crimes & downright Evil behavior by the Law & the Sometimes criminal cops who enforce it, this is the Worst & most Reprehensible miscarriage of "Justice" I've ever encountered -- and that covers a lot of rotten things, including a few close calls of my own. Which might easily have gone the other way if not for the help of some hammerhead Lawyers who came to my aid when I was in desperate trouble. (See "Songs of the Doomed," Summit Books, 1990.)
I learned a lot about Karma in those moments, and one thing that sticks with me is a quote from Edmund Burke that says: "THE ONLY THING NECESSARY FOR THE TRIUMPH OF EVIL IS FOR GOOD MEN TO DO NOTHING." That is what got me into the Lisl Auman case, and that is why I will stay in it until this brutal Wrong is Righted....
Indeed. It is no small trick to get a "Convicted cop-killer" out of prison -- but it will be a little easier in this case, because Lisl no more killed a cop than I did. She was handcuffed in the backseat of a Denver Police car when the cop was murdered in cold blood by a vicious skinhead who then shot himself in the head & left the D.A. with nobody to punish for the murder -- except Lisl. It is a long story & I can't explain it all now. But you can find it on the Web at Lisl.com.
Good luck, Lisl. I've been writing about you since 2001, and I really hope your conviction is overturned. As to how Lisl has spent the past nine years in custody, Diane Carman of the Denver Post, provided this poignant account Sunday.
While Auman waits for the ruling to be announced, she said, she has tried to control her anxiety. She's nearly completed her associate degree from Adams State College. She works out in the gym. She knits. She keeps a diary. She writes letters. She meditates.
She used to talk to Hunter S. Thompson regularly and was devastated by his suicide. Thompson had been a vocal advocate for Auman, as was rocker Warren Zevon, who died of cancer in 2003.
But for Auman, life in prison goes on.
While she has been at Cañon City, her brother has married and her father has remarried. She has become an aunt to twin nieces. This year, she'll turn 30. Her days are a blur of fear, anxiety, boredom and intense focus on the positive, whether that means studying for her cultural anthropology exam or fantasizing about what life would be like when - if - she ever gets out of prison.
We're all very apprehensive," said her father, Don Auman. "We're really hoping for the best ... hoping for the best."
Her stepfather, Rob Auerbach, said Friday that the whole family is "scared." So much rides on this decision.
We're all pulling for you Lisl, and wherever Hunter is, he's probably shouting the loudest. Keep the Faith!
|< Cheney Opposes Reform of Military Tribunals | Michael Jackson:Court to Admit 1993 Accuser Testimony >|