New trial planned for man accused in 2012 murder

Julius Sutton

A Grand Junction man whose 2012 murder conviction was reversed last fall is set for a new trial after Colorado’s Supreme Court refused to accept jurisdiction over the case.

Julius Paul Sutton, 31, was one of two men convicted several years ago in connection with the June 12, 2012, slaying of 51-year-old Bill Smith, whose body was recovered from the burned wreckage of an RV near 830 Unaweep Ave.

Sutton and now-27-year-old Lucos J. Schultz, who apparently didn’t know each other or Smith, were both arrested and charged in Smith’s death. Investigators alleged that Sutton and Schultz met each other during a night of drinking, beat Smith unconscious and burned him to death inside the trailer.

Schultz pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit first-degree murder in 2013 and is serving a prison sentence.

Sutton pleaded not guilty and was acquitted at trial of the most serious charges — attempted first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.

A Mesa County jury found him guilty, however,  of several other charges, including second-degree murder and first-degree arson earlier reports said.

A panel of Colorado Court of Appeals judges reversed Sutton’s conviction last year based largely on a disagreement over whether the presiding judge should have admitted evidence that Sutton tried to sell two guns cheaply and quickly after the killing, earlier reports said.

“The trial court admitted this evidence under the (prosecution’s) theory that it was evidence of flight or concealment,” the appellate judges wrote in their reversal. “Because flight evidence requires proof that the defendant was aware he was being sought … and no such evidence was produced in this case, the court misapplied the law and abused its discretion in admitting this evidence. … The prosecution used this evidence to encourage the jury to conclude that defendant was not innocent by ‘parading evidence before the jury merely to paint a picture of (the defendant) as a bad person.’ “

The Mesa County District Attorney’s office asked Colorado’s supreme court to overrule the appeals court’s decision; however, in April, the high court declined to reexamine the case, according to court records.

Sutton is now back in the Mesa County Jail awaiting his retrial, which is scheduled to begin Sept. 17 before Mesa County District Judge Gretchen Larson.


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