Haught Appeals Verdict


While prosecutors were preparing to appeal the March 12 sentencing of Star Valley businessman Roy Haught, who was convicted Feb. 16 of killing mechanic Jim Cooper, defense attorney Tracey Westerhausen was working on her own appeal.

Westerhausen filed an appeal Friday to be heard by the Arizona Court of Appeals, Division 2 in Tucson, in an attempt to overturn the verdict and the sentencing of her client. In the meantime, Haught was released Sunday on house arrest at the request of the Gila County Probation Department.

Numerous attempts to reach Westerhausen were unsuccessful.

The jury found Haught guilty of the "dangerous crimes" of negligent homicide and aggravated assault, stemming from an altercation Dec. 14, 1997, that led to the death of Cooper, a popular Strawberry resident.

The standard sentence for negligent homicide is six years in prison, with a minimum sentence of four years and a maximum sentence of eight.

For aggravated assault, a more severe crime than negligent homicide, Haught faced a standard sentence of 7.5 years in prison, with a minimum sentence of five years and a maximum sentence of 15.

But in sentencing Haught, Superior Court Judge Edd Dawson dismissed the "dangerous crimes" element of the jury's verdict -- a move that allowed the judge to sentence Haught to probation rather than prison. Haught was sentenced to six months in jail and five years of intensive probation.

He has since been released under the supervision of the house arrest program.

Inmates released on the house arrest program are closely monitored, and must wear an identification vest while traveling to and from work.

Gila County Attorney Jerry DeRose said Tuesday it is standard practice for the defense to appeal a conviction.

"They've always contended that it was a case of self-defense -- that it shouldn't have gone to trial in the first place," DeRose said. "That's been their position.

"We believe that it required a mandatory prison sentence. I always feel that it should be up to the jury to decide those things."

DeRose said his appeal will be handled by the Arizona Attorney General's Office.

"That's according to state statute," he said. "That way, there is continuity to the law. And, frankly, they're specialists in handling appeals. They're better at it."

DeRose said it could take the court as long as a year to resolve either appeal. If the prosecution wins the appeal, the case will be sent back to Judge Dawson for resentencing.

"Of course, they can still appeal it to the supreme court," he said.

If the defense wins its appeal, the three-member court of appeals panel could issue a variety of decisions, ranging from dropping the case due to a lack of evidence to remanding the case back to court for a new trial.

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