By Brian Maass
DENVER (CBS4) – Harold Henthorn, convicted of killing his second wife by shoving her off a cliff in 2012, will not get a new trial according to a ruling issued Wednesday by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The panel rejected Henthorn’s appeal, saying he received a fair trial and evidence jurors heard about his prior acts was relevant and appropriate. The court decision was first reported by Kirk Mitchell with the Denver Post.
“We are pleased that the 10th Circuit validated the decisions of Judge Jackson and a very competent jury,” said Todd Bertolet, the brother of Toni Henthorn, who died when Harold Henthorn shoved her off a cliff in Rocky Mountain National Park.
“It is personally rewarding that Harold Henthorn must now continue to face the reality of his decisions in lieu of his selfish make-believe life prior to his conviction,” said Bertolet.
Henthorn had challenged his 2015 federal court conviction, suggesting the trial court judge should not have allowed jurors to hear about the suspicious death of his first wife, Lynn, and another act prosecutors considered suspect.
“The district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting prior similar conduct,” wrote the appeals court judges. “..The evidence was properly admitted.. was relevant, and was not substantially outweighed by unfair prejudice.”
Prosecutors theorized Harold Henthorn murdered Toni to receive about $4.7 million in proceeds from life insurance policies.
His first wife, Lynn, died in 1995 under unusual circumstances while changing a tire. Henthorn said the couple’s Jeep slipped off a jack, and crushed his wife who was beneath the vehicle retrieving a lug nut. He was never charged with a crime and Douglas County investigators ruled it an accident. Henthorn collected $600,000 in life insurance for his first wife’s death.
The trial court judge allowed prosecutors to tell jurors about that incident, prompting the appeal.
“Accordingly we hold the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the challenged evidence and thus AFFIRM Henthorn’s conviction,” said the appeals court ruling.
Henthorn, 61, is serving a life sentence for Toni Henthorn’s murder at a high security federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. He has not responded to previous CBS4 inquiries seeking comment on his case.