2 versions of deputy's death created doubt for jurors
Jury defied 'gut,' 'instinct' and focused on law, forewoman says
Roman became angry soon after when he realized that he was being followed by a police officer, but he took care to stay in his lane and follow the speed limit, according to Higley. When the police officer turned on her emergency lights, Roman apparently snapped.
"He said he became very angry," Higley said. "He thought the reason he was being stopped was because he was Mexican. He pulled on to the side of the road and said he heard what he described as a mean voice saying, 'License and registration.' He said as soon as he saw the officer in the corner of his eye, he raised the gun onto his left shoulder and fired two or three rounds."
But as he stood trial for murder, Roman took the stand in his own defense Thursday and Friday and made significant and crucial changes to that story.
Roman testified that when Kimball saw Greathouse's vehicle drive off, it was being driven by a third man whom Roman had never seen before and has not since been able to identify. He describede him as a blond man, medium build with a mustache.
Greathouse was still in Roman's Cadillac when he turned toward Delta and the AK-47 was between them in the car, Roman claimed. When the car was pulled over, Roman said it was Greathouse who took the gun and, reaching over Roman's chest from the passenger side of the vehicle, opened fire.
Roman said Greathouse didn't know the deputy was his own sister and cried when he realized what he had done. He said Greathouse then threatened him and his two children, prompting him to cover for Greathouse.
"(Roman) had just seen Ryan Greathouse shoot his sister. He had just heard Ryan Greathouse threaten his children. He was afraid of what he could do," McCaughey told the jury.
Prosecutors sought to have Greathouse's written statement to police entered into evidence at trial but McCaughey objected, calling it hearsay. Fourth District Judge Donald Eyre determined that only parts of the statement, including the information about drug use, could be included.
Prosecutors put on rebuttal witnesses who said Greathouse didn't appear to be upset, nor appeared to have been crying, until after he was informed of the shooting. McCaughey argued that Greathouse was composed because he already knew what had happened to his sister.
McCaughey emphasized that Roman was innocent until proven guilty and that the jury needed to be certain beyond a reasonable doubt before convicting him. He added that there was no independent evidence, beyond Roman's confession, that implicated the man. Roman's fingerprints were on the AK-47, McCaughey conceded, but Roman never said he didn't handle the gun, which he said he got from Greathouse.
Finlinson asked the jury to look again at Roman's confession, in which he demonstrated for police how he had shot Fox, and the additional evidence that corroborated that narrative. He dismissed Roman's new testimony about Greathouse's involvement as "convenient" and questioned certain details such as whether Greathouse could have physically crouched in the vehicle as Roman described or driven the approximately 23-mile distance to Greathouse's home in Leamington to drop him off in just 10 minutes.
"It's not consistent," Finlinson said in closing arguments. "It's not believable."
But jurors still had questions.
"All of us wish we could have made decisions based on our gut and our intuition and not just on the evidence presented because there was a lack of evidence that we needed to make that decision. But that's not how our justice system works," Kay said. "You're innocent until proven guilty.
"We feel so sorry for the family and want to send our condolences and we didn't take this decision lightly."
"Everybody's shocked and hurt" about the verdict, Millard County Sheriff Robert Dekker said Saturday.
"It's kind of a slap in the face to all of us, but on the other hand, that's the country we live in, that's the system we have and this time maybe the system didn't work," he said. "The jury was wrong."
Still, Dekker said the close Millard County community will move on and grow together.
"That's the kind of people we have here and it's exactly, I think, what Josie would have us do — to continue on ... as a family," the sheriff said.
The jury convicted Roman of tampering with evidence and possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person, both third-degree felonies. He will be sentenced for those on Oct. 10. Each carries a maximum penalty of zero to five years.
Chavez-Reyes is serving a 1-to-15-year prison sentence and has another parole hearing slated for January of 2017.
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