Rocky Mountain News

Colorado Supreme Court overturns Auman conviction

Rocky Mountain News By Steven K. Paulson
March 28, 2005

The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday reversed the felony murder conviction and life sentence of Lisl Auman, who was found guilty even though she was in custody when a companion shot and killed a police officer.

The court said the conviction was flawed because the judge's instructions to the jury on a related burglary charge may have been improper. Auman's conviction on the burglary charge allowed the jury to find her guilty of felony murder, which carries a sentence of life without parole.

The court ordered a new trial.

State law allows a defendant to be convicted of felony murder, even if he or she didn't kill anyone, if an accomplice commits murder during another crime.

Police were pursuing Auman and her companion, Matthaeus Jaehnig, after a break-in Nov. 12, 1997. Auman was apprehended and placed in handcuffs before Jaehnig killed Denver police officer Bruce VanderJagt, then killed himself.

Auman, 29, has spent seven years in prison appealing her conviction.

The case has attracted national attention. The late Hunter S. Thompson and actors Sean Penn, Benecio Del Toro and Johnny Depp have taken up her cause.

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