The Colorado Court of Appeals this month overturned a jury's 2012 perjury conviction against revenge-shooter Bruce J. Nozolino.
The reversal, announced Thursday, does not affect Nozolino's murder conviction, for which he was sentenced to life without parole plus 288 years.
It does, however, mark an early victory in what promises to be a years-long battle to challenge Nozolino's criminal convictions, which his attorneys say were won on the basis of fear-mongering and thin evidence. The 52-year-old former Lockheed Martin software engineer was convicted March 7 of murder, attempted murder and other crimes a jury linked to a bitter divorce.
The perjury case revolved around claims that the longtime suspect lied about his assets in 2010 in a bid to win free legal representation by the Public Defender's Office.
In a 13-page decision, a three-judge panel on the Appeals Court ruled that Nozolino's claims about his assets were "immaterial" because a judge rejected Nozolino's request for a different reason - ruling that Nozolino far exceeded income guidelines.
Whether Nozolino lied about assets such as stocks and bonds was irrelevant, and a "reasonable jury" should have recognized that, the panel ruled.
Nozolino guilty on all counts, sentenced to life without chance of parole
"It has long been the law in Colorado that the statement must also have been "material" in the sense that it could have affected the decision whether to appoint counsel for him," according to an opinion authored by Judge David J. Richman, with Judges James S. Casebolt and JoAnn Vogt concurring.
The State Attorney General's Office has a two-week window in which to ask the Appeals Court to reconsider or to file a request for review by the Colorado State Supreme Court. "We're taking the matter under consideration," said Carolyn Tyler, spokeswoman for the Attorney General's Office.
The attorney who mounted the successful appeal, Joshua Tolini of Colorado Springs, could not be reached for comment.
The reversal comes at a time when the Appeals Court is still weighing an appeal of Nozolino's 2012 conviction for witness tampering, based on allegations that he meddled in a grand jury investigation by encouraging friends and family members not to cooperate.
His murder conviction will also end up before the Appeals Court. His attorneys say they were improperly blocked from introducing testimony about other people who could have been involved in a 2008 slaying and three earlier shootings attributed to Nozolino.
His attorney in the murder trial, Tina Tussay, said Nozolino was "thrilled" with the news. "He's happy with that decision and he thinks it was the right decision."
Nozolino is being held at the Department of Corrections' Denver Reception and Diagnostic Center, which will ultimately decide which prison will house him, Tussay said.
This marks the second time in the Nozolino case that the Appeals Court has reversed a decision by presiding judge Victor I. Reyes of Pueblo. The court previously overturned a decision by Reyes that booted public defenders from the case based on an alleged conflict of interest.