Attorney General Reyes Issues Statement on
Utah Court of Appeals Unanimous Decision in State v. Shepherd
SALT LAKE CITY August 13, 2015 – Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes issued a statement following today’s Utah Court of Appeals unanimous decision in State v. Shepherd:
“This case demonstrates our office’s continued commitment to protect valid criminal convictions when they are challenged on appeal, as well as our commitment to protect the rights of crime victims and their families,” said Attorney General Reyes. “We seek justice for victims throughout the state of Utah – and in today’s unanimous court decision, justice was served.”
“While our focus as attorneys is on the law and it’s fair application, we are human beings too. As is the case whenever a life is unnecessarily lost, those on all sides are negatively impacted forever but none more so than the victim and her family. We hope all can find peace in their own way.”
On August 21, 2011, Colton Raines drove a boat into Esther Fujimoto while she was swimming in Pineview Reservoir. Skyler Shepherd owned that boat and was onboard when Raines struck her. Even though Fujimoto was seriously injured and crying out in pain, Shepherd did not stop to help her. Instead, he took the wheel and sped away. Fujimoto—a noted cancer researcher at the University of Utah—died a short time later from blood loss.
In December 2012, a Weber County jury convicted Shepherd of reckless endangerment, obstruction of justice, and failing to render aid.
In a unanimous opinion issued today, the Utah Court of Appeals affirmed that conviction. The court of appeals held that “the jury could have easily found on the evidence before it” that Shepherd’s decision to flee the scene created “a substantial risk” that Fujimoto would die. It also held that there was “ample evidence” to show that Shepherd lied to police officers during several initial interviews. For these and other reasons, the court of appeals correctly rejected all of Shepherd’s challenges to his convictions.
Attorney General Reyes thanks Assistant Attorney General Ryan Tenney, who capably represented the State in this appeal. Attorney General Reyes also acknowledges the work of Dean Saunders and Teral Tree from the Weber County Attorney’s Office, who successfully tried this case at the district court.