The parents of a woman gunned down in the Trolley Square shooting rampage are asking a federal appeals court to declare her a victim of the man who sold a gun to her killer.
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals based in Denver is expected to issue a ruling today, deciding whether it will take up an emergency appeal by Sue and Ken Antrobus. The Cincinnati, Ohio, couple is seeking to have Vanessa Quinn legally recognized as a victim in the case against Mackenzie Hunter. He sold Sulejman Talovic the .38 Special that was used during the Feb. 12, 2007, shootings.
"By unlawfully selling a handgun to Talovic, the defendant effectively 'set a bomb' that is, let loose a person who was prohibited by federal criminal law from carrying such a weapon," the Antrobus' attorneys, Paul Cassell and Greg Skordas, wrote. "The bomb 'exploded' some eight months later when Talovic did precisely what Congress was concerned about: committed multiple violent felonies."
Talovic, 18, went on a shooting rampage at the Trolley Square mall, killing five people and wounding four others before dying in a shootout with police.
A federal judge in Salt Lake City denied the Antrobus' request to have Quinn recognized as a victim under the Crime Victim Rights Act. It would have allowed them to speak at Hunter's sentencing and seek $107,000 in restitution.
In their appeal, the Antrobuses contest the judge's ruling that Quinn was not "directly and proximately" harmed by Hunter's sale of the gun to Talovic.
"The defendant's criminal sale of a handgun directly harmed Vanessa Quinn when she died from a bullet fired from that gun," their attorneys wrote. "The defendant's crime also proximately harmed her, as the defendant had good reason to foresee that the gun would be used in a crime of violence."
Hunter, 20, disagrees. In court papers filed Thursday, Hunter's lawyer urges the appeals court to dismiss the issue and questions whether Quinn was really killed with the .38 Special.
"There simply is no reliable evidence before the District Court or before this court that Mr. Hunter sold a gun to Talovic that was used to kill Vanessa Quinn or that he had any knowledge when he sold it that it would be used in a crime," David Finlayson wrote.
Federal prosecutors said they would not be getting involved in the appeal.
"The United States does not intend to file a response in this matter," U.S. Attorney for Utah Brett Tolman wrote in a letter to the appeals court. "The United States strongly supports victims' rights and will extend every right afforded to the Antrobuses under the law, as determined by this Court."Hunter is scheduled to be sentenced on Monday. If the court grants the Antrobus' appeal, that sentencing would be delayed.