A three-judge panel of the Denver-based court described the case as "difficult." However, it decided, U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball in Salt Lake City was not "clearly wrong" in his conclusion that Vanessa Quinn was not a victim of the gun sale eight months earlier.
Mackenzie Glade Hunter has pleaded guilty to two charges in connection with his sale of a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson to Sulejman Talovic, who killed five shoppers and injured four at Trolley Square mall on Feb. 12.
Quinn, 29, was the only one killed with the handgun. Parents Sue and Ken Antrobus of Cincinnati hoped designating her a victim under the federal Crime Victims' Rights Act (CVRA) would allow them argue for a stiffer sentence of 99 months for Hunter.
Sue Antrobus said Friday she is disappointed, adding a long sentence could help prevent the illegal transfer of guns.
"If you can just stop one gun from getting on the streets, you might save one life or maybe ten," Antrobus said.
Paul Cassell, a University of Utah law professor respresenting the Antrobuses, said he plans to ask the full 10th Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court to review the appeal because courts have differed on what standards should apply to CVRA cases.
"Sadly, it appears that the Antrobuses would have won if their case had been filed in New York or California," he said.
Appellate judge Timothy Tymkovich joined the unanimous decision but criticized Kimball and prosecutors for not giving the Antrobuses access to evidence that might show Talovic's crime was a "reasonably foreseeable result of the illegal gun sale."
Hunter thought Talovic might use the gun to rob a bank, a crime that reasonably could result in a shooting, Tymkovich noted. Kimball had declined to release sections of a pre-sentence report to the couple.
Melodie Rydalch, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Utah, said requests for such information must be made under the federal Freedom of Information Act and sent to the Department of Justice for an expedited review.
"The Crime Victims' Rights Act does not provide an avenue for the U.S. Attorney's Office to provide criminal investigative reports to a victim," she said in a statement.