Court upholds 146-year sentence
Woman claimed constitutional rights violated in murder-for-hire case
The Colorado Court of Appeals on Wednesday affirmed the conviction of a 23-year-old Grand Junction woman who was sentenced to 146 years in prison for the fatal stabbing of a man on Orchard Mesa, which happened before she allegedly tried to hire a hit man to kill witnesses in the case.
Amy Adamson, who was convicted at trial in November 2010 in the death of 20-year-old Ramon Sandoval, had argued through attorneys her Sixth Amendment right to legal counsel was violated when prosecutors were allowed to use statements gathered in her murder-for-hire case, in order to convict her in Sandoval’s killing.
Adamson was convicted of first- and second-degree murder, first-degree assault, tampering with physical evidence and two sentence-enhancing habitual criminal charges. She was arrested after Sandoval was found dead in the parking lot of Monument Ridge Townhomes, 2680 B 1/2 Road, on Jan. 15, 2010.
Police said Adamson was angry with Sandoval because she thought he had been flirting with her girlfriend. She eventually admitting stabbing Sandoval, while later claiming she did so in self-defense.
Six months after her arrest, Adamson was charged with solicitation to commit first-degree murder after prosecutors uncovered a letter written by Adamson to a friend, seeking help in killing witnesses. Jurors in the Sandoval murder trial also heard Adamson’s voice on a recorded call — conversations with an undercover officer posing as a hit man — from the Mesa County Jail.
District Judge Brian Flynn eventually joined the two criminal cases.
The Sixth Amendment protects people’s right to an attorney and the opportunity to consult with one in preparation for trial. The court of appeals ruling notes prosecutors infringe on that right when they “knowingly circumvent” someone’s right to have counsel during interaction with law enforcement.
Adamson’s claims are unique in Colorado law, the court of appeals noted.
“In the absence of any controlling law on the issue in Colorado, we are unable to discern that the trial court committed plain error by allowing evidence of the solicitation to be used in the prosecution of the murder and assault charges,” the court of appeals said in a majority opinion. “Plain error has to be obvious, and here this undecided issue could not have been obvious.”
Appeals Court Judge David Richman disagreed and wrote a dissenting opinion.
“The evidence obtained through the surreptitious investigation of the solicitation offense, to the extent that it related to the murder charge and was obtained without counsel’s presence, was not admissible in the murder trial, and therefore the two cases should not have been consolidated,” the dissent said.