Utah Supreme Court reverses conviction of man accused of murdering wife on State St. in 2013
MIDVALE, Utah — A Midvale man who was convicted of fatally shooting his wife in the head will get a new jury trial after the Utah Supreme Court reversed that conviction Friday.
A jury found Komasquin Lopez guilty of murdering his wife, Shannon Lopez, and he was sentenced in district court to 16 years to life. Lopez and his legal team appealed, ultimately making their way to the Utah Supreme Court.
Lopez was charged with murder in January of 2014 after Shannon Lopez suffered a fatal gunshot wound to the head as the pair were traveling in a pickup truck on State Street in December 2013. Lopez told police his wife took her own life, but police stated evidence at the scene was inconsistent with the defendant’s statements.
“Mr. Lopez has always maintained his innocence and continues to do so,” Nick Falcone, the man’s attorney, told Fox 13 in an email. “He continues to mourn the death of his wife and has expressed openly that he was wrongly convicted.”
According to the opinion filed Friday by the Utah Supreme Court, the ruling hinges on expert testimony presented during the trial, which the court found did not meet the threshold of reliability required under Utah Rule of Evidence 702.
The court further found that testimony introduced in error was harmful to the case and that the district court abused its discretion in admitting evidence relating to Lopez’s past behavior.
“This error was also harmful,” the court writes. “Accordingly, we reverse Lopez’s conviction and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.”
Nick Falcone, Lopez’s attorney, tells Fox 13 News this means the case will return to trial court for a new jury trial, with the case returning to district court sometime in the next month or two. He said Lopez will be released from prison and sent back to the county jail for the duration of the new trial.
Falcone said the expert witness testimony in question involved letting, “a controversial witness a “Suicideoligist'” testify about studies regarding suicide that were determined to be unreliable.”
The court found the state failed to show the Fluid Vulnerability Theory of Suicide used by the witness reached an adequate threshold to prove its reliability, according to the ruling issued Friday.
The court found the evidence presented by the witness, “was the strongest statement the State introduced to demonstrate that Shannon’s death was not a suicide” and likely swayed the jury.
The evidence about Komasquin Lopez’s past related to a demonstration involving a firearm where he pointed a gun at Shannon. The other incident was an argument he had with Shannon in which he threatened to shoot her if she divorced him.
The court found that the two events were not similar enough to the circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting to “demonstrate a modus operandi” or pattern of similar behavior.