SALT LAKE CITY — A man convicted of killing his wife by striking her with a truck and leaving her on the side of the road can continue his pursuit of a new trial for the time being.
However, 3rd District Judge Deno Himonas dismissed a petition Thursday filed by Sherman Alexander Lynch asking that his conviction of murder, a first-degree felony, and obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony, be thrown out. Lynch was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for murder and one to 15 years for the obstruction charge in the death of his wife, Patricia Rothermich, 64, on Oct. 3, 2007.
Lynch was asking for a determination of factual innocence, in part based on an allegation that a "key" prosecution witness changed his testimony about zip ties found at the crime scene. Prosecutor David Carlson argued that the zip ties — regardless of what the witness allegedly said three years after trial — didn't prove that Lynch had new, clear and convincing evidence that proved his innocence.
"The recantation has to do more than raise doubts about the petitioner's conviction," Carlson said. "It has to establish his innocence."
While Himonas declined to find Lynch factually innocent, he also opted against throwing out the man's petition for a new trial. The state had filed a motion of summary judgment, asking that the judge rule in its favor and deny Lynch's petition for post-conviction relief, but Himonas dismissed the state's motion without prejudice because it wasn't filed in the proper format.
Because it was dismissed without prejudice, however, the state can re-file the motion.
Lynch's attorney, Steve Austin, said one argument his client is making for a new trial is ineffective assistance of counsel, but said the zip tie issue is also a factor in that petition.
Rothermich was walking near the couple's Holladay home when she was struck. While Lynch initially appeared devastated by her death, police quickly grew suspicious.
Among other things, Rothermich was hit by a white vehicle and Lynch had secretly owned a white truck that he stored away from his home; the timing of the crime seemed questionable since Lynch said he had been shopping at Costco, but police found there was still time to commit the crime; and Lynch had a girlfriend who did not know he was married until after Rothermich's death. That woman came forward and told police what she knew about Lynch's truck and his behavior.