A gang leader convicted of ordering a subordinate to kill a woman suspected of being a snitch says his attorneys failed to properly argue his case.
After Joshua Binkerd, 26, was convicted of the lesser charge of manslaughter for his role in a 2008 shooting at Jordanelle Park, the man's mother praised Heber City-based attorney Edward Jones.
"I think Ed Jones saved my son from life in prison," Tina Binkerd said.
But before the Utah Court of Appeals on Tuesday, Joshua Binkerd's new attorney argued that Jones was ineffective at trial because he was unaware of a line of cases that calls into question whether someone can be convicted as an accomplice to a crime if his intent is different. In Binkerd's case, the difference between murder and manslaughter was whether he acted intentionally or recklessly in causing Ashley Sparks' death.
Binkerd "has been convicted of a crime that doesn't exist," defense attorney Corbin Gordon said.
Joshua Binkerd is serving up to 20 years in prison for his role in the Dec. 26, 2008, killing of Sparks.
According to testimony at trial, Binkerd was the leader of a loose-knit gang that trafficked methamphetamine. He ordered another man, Chris Alvey, to kill the 22-year-old Sparks after she was discovered with a tape recorder and a list of numbers from another gang member's phone.
Alvey, who is serving up to life in prison for murder, testified against Binkerd at trial, saying the man rewarded him with a blue bandana for "doing a good job" when he pushed the woman out of a van near Jordanelle Park and shot her four times.
Binkerd told police that he instructed Alvey to take Sparks out of town and make sure she didn't come back. Alvey testified in court that he believed it was an order to kill.
Assistant Utah Attorney General Ryan Tenney said Binkerd's case is based on a "shaky" reading of the case law.
"We think this was a just verdict," he said.
The appeals court took the case under advisement.