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State v. Sosa-Hurtado, 2018 UT App 35 (Mar. 1, 2018).

Mar 1, 2018

The defendant was convicted of multiple felonies, including a first-degree felony conviction for aggravated murder.  The defendant argued on appeal that the aggravator (knowingly creating a great risk of death to the victim’s father) was unsupported by evidence.  Based on analysis of the two previous Utah cases in which the aggravator was at issue, as well as persuasive authority from other jurisdictions, the Court identified three main factors that should influence the decision as to whether the “great risk of death” aggravator applies: (1) the chronological relationship between the defendant’s actions towards the victim and the third-party; (2) the proximity of the third-party and the victim at the time of the acts constituting the murder; and (3) whether and to what extent the third-party was actually threatened.   Applying these factors, the Court found all three weighed in favor of applying the aggravator, and that there was therefore sufficient evidence for the jury to find the defendant had placed the victim’s father at great risk of death.