United States v. Henthorn
United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
864 F.3d 1241 (2017)
Toni, the second wife of Harold Henthorn (defendant), died while the two were hiking in a national park. According to Henthorn, Toni fell off a cliff in a remote location with no cell service. Henthorn was the only witness to the incident. Henthorn had taken out several life insurance policies on Toni prior to her death and gave several inconsistent statements to authorities after the incident. The prosecution (plaintiff) believed that Henthorn had pushed Toni off the cliff and charged him with first-degree murder. At trial, the prosecution sought to introduce evidence of the peculiar circumstances of the death of Henthorn’s first wife, Lynn. Lynn died in 1995 while Lynn and Henthorn were changing a tire on the side of a remote road. There was no cell service at this location, and Henthorn was the only witness. After the incident, Henthorn gave several inconsistent statements to authorities about the circumstances surrounding the death. Just prior to the death, Henthorn took out a life insurance policy on Lynn. The prosecution also sought to introduce evidence of an incident in which Toni was injured when a large wooden beam hit her on the back of the neck. The injury occurred at the couple’s remote cabin with no other witnesses around. Around this time, Henthorn had several life insurance policies for Toni. Like the other incidents, Henthorn’s account of the incident was often inconsistent. The district court admitted the evidence of these prior incidents for the purpose of proving Henthorn’s intent and his common plan or scheme. Henthorn was convicted, and he appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Tymkovich, C.J.)
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