Park City murderer seeks new trial
April 27, 2018
A man convicted and imprisoned for the murder of a popular Park City bartender has requested a new trial, arguing another one should be granted on procedural grounds stemming from the first trial.
A jury in October found James Henfling guilty of murder and felony discharge of a firearm in the shooting death of Jose Fernandez in 2016. Judge Patrick Corum in March sentenced Henfling to a state prison term of up to life.
An attorney for Henfling shortly after the sentencing filed a motion in 3rd District Court at Silver Summit asking for a new trial. Henfling's side has challenged the instructions to the jury since just after the trial, claiming they were not correct or complete regarding two categories of self-defense arguments. Another judge in December denied a request by Henfling's side to essentially set aside the verdict based on instructions to the jury.
The filing asking for a new trial lists four possible issues a judge could evaluate while considering granting another trial. It raises the possibility of misconduct by the prosecution, including "improper, false, and prejudicial arguments" made toward the end of the trial. It does not provide details.
"Because the prosecutor's comments tainted the fundamental fairness of these proceedings, the arguments violated Mr. Henfling's state and federal right to due process of law," the filing says.
The filing also broaches the possibility of the use of an improper theory of felony murder, lists jury instructions regarding self-defense and points to the potential of "ineffective assistance" by Henfling's attorney during the trial.
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Summit County Attorney Margaret Olson said prosecutors will oppose the request for a new trial. She said the arguments in opposition will not be available until after Henfling's side submits a detailed filing in support of a new trial.
The proceedings are expected to take months. The Henfling side will file a memorandum with details by May 31 followed by a July 31 deadline for the prosecutors to respond. Henfling's attorneys will then have until Aug. 30 to reply. A Sept. 10 hearing is scheduled for the judge to consider the arguments.
Henfling, 29, shot Jose Fernandez after a fistfight in an Empire Avenue condominium. Henfling's side claims the shooting was in self-defense, but the prosecutors convinced the jury Henfling intended to kill Fernandez and he did not pose a threat to Henfling at the moment of the shooting.
The judge in March sentenced Henfling to 16 years to life in state prison on the murder conviction and five years to life on the conviction of felony discharge of a firearm. The terms are running concurrently rather than consecutively. The sentence followed emotional testimony from family and friends of Fernandez. Henfling's lead attorney during the trial said the killer's remorse is private.
Fernandez was 37 at the time of his death and worked at the No Name Saloon & Grill and Boneyard Saloon & Wine Dive.
An attorney representing Henfling in the request for a new trial did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.