SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Supreme Court has overturned a 2013 conviction for a Midvale man accused of shooting his wife in the head as they drove down State Street together.
Komasquin Lopez, now 47, was found guilty by a jury of killing his wife, 32-year-old Shannon Lopez, and of using a gun to do it. He had insisted at trial that he didn't kill his wife but that she shot herself in the passenger seat with a gun he kept in his truck. Just after the gun fired, Lopez crashed his truck near 7200 S. State.
Shannon Lopez had used a "toxic" amount of methamphetamine prior to the crash, according to a medical examiner. Komasquin Lopez also admitted to having methamphetamine in his system, and said the couple had been arguing over Shannon Lopez's drug use and their financial problems.
Komasquin Lopez maintained he was innocent as he was sentenced in December 2015 to spend at least 16 years and up to life in prison.
"I did not shoot my wife," Lopez said at the time. "I'll never admit to that, because I did not do it."
In a decision handed down Friday, Utah's high court determined that prosecutors had not properly asserted at trial whether the technique a clinical psychiatrist used to measure if Shannon Lopez was at risk of taking her own life is a generally accepted way to evaluate someone who has already died.
Justice John Pearce, who penned the decision, noted that some evidence, like the fact that the woman was right-handed but was shot in the left side of her head, bolstered the state's case. Other evidence supported Lopez's defense, like the fact that Shannon Lopez was experienced enough with firearms to shoot with her left hand and had talked about suicide in the past.
"Given this conflicting evidence, Dr. (Craig) Bryan's opinion that Shannon's death was inconsistent with suicide likely swayed the jury. It was the strongest statement the state introduced to demonstrate that Shannon's death was not a suicide," Pearce wrote.
Lopez also argued that allegations should not have been admitted at trial that he had previously pointed a gun at his wife's head, and that he had threatened to kill an ex-wife if she divorced him. The Utah Supreme Court agreed, finding that the evidence was not similar enough to be admitted in the case, and that the information may have influenced the jury.
Lopez's case was remanded to the 3rd District Court, where he may face a new trial. He remained in prison Saturday.