Cassell Files Pro Bono Emergency Appeal in Tenth Circuit for Trolley

January 8, 2008—Paul Cassell, a professor at the S.J. Quinney College of Law, today filed in the Tenth Circuit an emergency appeal for an Ohio couple whose daughter was murdered in the Trolley Square shooting last February.  Cassell asked the Court of Appeals to allow the parents to speak at the upcoming sentencing Mackenzie Hunter, who has pled guilty in federal court in Salt Lake City to unlawfully selling the murder weapon to the Trolley Square shooter.  The Tenth Circuit is expected to rule on Cassell’s appeal by Friday. 

A nationally recognized expert on victims’ rights, Cassell announced today that he has appealed a district court decision denying Ken and Sue Antrobus, the parents of murder victim Vanessa Quinn, the right to speak at the sentencing hearing of defendant MacKenzie Hunter, who sold a handgun to the perpetrator who shot and killed their daughter.

Cassell, who recently stepped down as a U.S. District Court judge to return to teaching and advocacy, was joined by Salt Lake City attorneys Greg Skordas and Rebecca Hyde in filing the pro bono appeal.   He noted that the Antrobuses’ argument could be ground-breaking: “This is the first case ever filed under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act. As a result, it will provide an important precedent on how crime victims will be treated under the Act, as well as the scope of their rights.”

Cassell noted that because the defendant in the matter, MacKenzie Hunter, did not himself fire the shot that killed Vanessa Quinn, U.S. District Court Judge Dale Kimball determined that there was not a sufficient nexus between Hunter’s sale of the gun to Sulejman Talovic, a minor who bought the gun from Hunter and committed the shooting eight months later.  Kimball wrote in his decision that while Quinn and the Antrobuses are “undoubtedly victims” of Talovic’s crimes
“that harm is not sufficiently connected to Hunter’s offense of unlawfully selling a firearm to a minor for this court to consider Hunter’s actions to be the direct and proximate cause of the harm.” 

In the appeal, Cassell argues that the lower court erroneously concluded that Quinn was not a victim of Hunter’s crime under the provisions of CVRA because she was “directly and proximately harmed” by the criminal firearms sale.   He has asked the court to rule within 72 hours, to allow the Antrobuses should be provided with an opportunity to speak at Hunter’s January 14th sentencing hearing. 

On February 12, 2007, Sulejman Talovic, who was armed with a shotgun and the pistol Hunter sold him, entered a Salt Lake City shopping mall, where he killed five shoppers and seriously wounded four others.  Quinn was killed by a bullet from the handgun.  Talovic was shot and killed by an off-duty police officer.

To read Cassell’s appeal, click here: