A defense attorney seeking a new trial for a Bluffdale man convicted of the attempted murder of a fellow neighborhood watch advocate said the man's lawyers so botched his case that the verdict should be thrown out.
Reginald Campos shot David Serbeck in 2009 because he believed Serbeck and another man were stalking his daughter. A jury later convicted Campos of first-degree felony attempted murder and third-degree felony aggravated assault for the shooting, which left Serbeck permanently paralyzed.
Campos, 46, who was sentenced to up to life in prison, has appealed his conviction. The Utah Court of Appeals heard arguments in the case Monday.
According to defense attorney Herschel Bullen, one of most the significant elements of Campos' appeal is that the burden of proof was "completely turned on its head." Bullen said Campos wanted to use an "imperfect self defense" argument because Campos believed he was defending himself even if he was acting "reasonably but incorrectly."
Bullen argued that the jury was given the impression that the burden of proof was on the defense, when the state was actually required to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. The result, Bullen said, was that the original defense attorneys were ineffective.
Campos shot Serbeck on July 22 after Campos' teenage daughter came home and said she had been followed by an SUV.
Campos a certified public accountant who had become a neighborhood watch advocate following a recent influx of crime in the area responded by getting a gun and, with his daughter, venturing out into the neighborhood to find the SUV.
Bullen told the court Monday that the girl felt she was being chased. Serbeck who also had advocated forming a neighborhood watch program and his companion that night, Troy Peterson, had reportedly followed Campos' daughter because they thought her vehicle was suspicious.
When Campos eventually spotted Serbeck's SUV, he pulled in front, forced it to stop and jumped out waving a gun and screaming about someone following his daughter, according to Serbeck's testimony at the trial.
During the ensuing confrontation, Serbeck claimed at trial that he lowered his gun by the barrel, kicked it away and stepped from behind his car door, saying, "Let's talk," before Campos shot Serbeck the chest, paralyzing him.
During Monday's hearing, Bullen later argued that Campos was under extreme emotional distress when he shot Serbeck. Bullen also alleged that prosecutors misled the jury during the trial about whether Serbeck had placed a bullet in the chamber of the gun he carried that night.
Assistant Attorney General Mark Field conceded Monday that there was a bullet in the chamber, but characterized prosecutors' comments as a misstatement, at most.
Field went on to praise Campos' original attorney, saying she did a "fabulous" job on the case and was not ineffective in any way.
Field argued during Monday's hearing that Campos' hysterical daughter wasn't enough to justify an extreme emotional distress defense.
Serbeck is currently in prison for an unrelated crime. In March 2012, he pleaded guilty to three counts of unlawful sexual activity with a minor, all third-degree felonies. Last June, a judge ordered him to spend up to 10 years behind bars for the crimes.
Prosecutors say Serbeck, 40, groomed a 17-year-old neighbor in the summer of 2007, exploiting her trouble with depression and having sex with her three times in his Magna home.
If Campos is successful on appeal, his case would go back to trial. Bullen also has argued that mitigating factors should have reduced Campos' conviction to attempted manslaughter.
The appeals court did not issue a ruling Monday.