A man convicted in 2009 of killing his wife lost one chance for a new trial Thursday, but he will still have another day in court to make his case.
Sherman Lynch, 65, appeared in Salt Lake City’s Third District Court Thursday to challenge his conviction for killing his wife, Patricia Rothermich, by running her over with a truck in 2007. A jury convicted Lynch of murder and obstruction of justice in 2008, and in 2009 a judge sentenced him to spend up to the rest of his life in prison. Lynch appealed his conviction but lost in 2011.
Lynch has asked for a new trial. Thursday in court, his attorney Steve Austin had two arguments: first, that the original defense lawyer in the case was ineffective; and second, that Lynch was factually innocent due to discrepancies with the evidence in his case. State attorneys had asked a judge to throw out both claims.
Much of the hearing Thursday focused on zip ties that police found at the scene of the crime in Holladay. The ties reportedly matched others found in Lynch’s truck, connecting him to the accident. However, Austin said a private investigator heard that police dropped the ties in the course of securing and investigating the scene. Austin argued the discovery cast doubt on Lynch’s conviction.
But Assistant Attorney General David Carlson said Lynch was required to do more than "muddy the waters." Instead, he was required to present new evidence that "clearly establishes innocence."
The judge sided with the state, but for technical reasons. He explained that Lynch was legally required to prove his innocence of all charges, but had actually only addressed the murder conviction, ignoring the obstruction of justice conviction. Because Lynch didn’t address both charges, the judge ruled against him.
However, Lynch will still get to argue that his attorney was ineffective. The judge rejected state attorneys’ request to throw that argument out as well because those attorneys failed to format their documents correctly. Assistant Attorney General Ryan Tenney said the state will re-file its request Friday morning. Both he and Austin expressed optimism that they would prevail at a yet-unscheduled future hearing to argue the issue.
In the mean time, Lynch will remain in prison. He appeared Thursday in court wearing an orange jumpsuit, wire-rimmed glasses and a gray beard.
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