The Colorado Court of Appeals denied a third attempt to invalidate a murder conviction from a Mancos man who shot and killed his ex-wife’s divorce attorney.
On March 4, 2005, Aric Jerome Miera rushed into the Cortez law office of 62-year-old Richard Luhman with a .32-caliber pistol, shooting the attorney in his chest four times. Miera fled and led police on a two-hour manhunt before being arrested on County Road L. He was found guilty in 2006 of first-degree murder after deliberation, first-degree felony murder and first-degree armed burglary. He was sentenced to life without parole.
Miera in 2010 argued that his conviction was invalid because his lawyer was ineffective. A division of the Colorado Court of Appeals at that time affirmed the conviction. In 2015, Miera tried again to overturn the ruling, and a 6th Judicial District Court judge denied the motion. More recently, Miera attempted to appeal the 2010 Colorado Court of Appeals ruling.
In an Oct. 25 judgment written by Colorado Court of Appeals Judge Robert J. Kapelke, the court again affirmed Miera’s conviction.
Miera, in the recent attempt to overturn his sentence, argued that his trial attorney failed to request a jury instruction on intoxication or reduced mental state, failed to object to evidence of prior bad acts, failed to move for suppression of defendant’s statements made after his arrest and failed to move for a change of venue.
Kapelke, in the opinion, wrote that he was not persuaded by the arguments. Miera’s sanity was a key factor in the 2006 conviction and a main point in the appeal.
Miera’s attorney during the trial argued not guilty by reason of insanity. Prosecutors, on the other hand, maintained the defendant was not insane but was instead seeking revenge for the victim’s role in Miera’s divorce. Evidence at trial demonstrated that the defendant had been exhibiting bizarre behavior in the days leading up to and including the shooting.
In a videotaped statement to police after his arrest, Miera said he had ingested “speed” a couple of days earlier, but a blood sample taken shortly after his arrest showed no traceable amounts of drugs or alcohol.
Kapelke stated the court’s review of the record reveals that defense counsel intentionally argued the defendant was not intoxicated on the day of the shooting to bolster his insanity defense.
On the argument that Miera’s attorney was ineffective by failing to object to evidence that the defendant had threatened violence and used drugs, Kapelke agreed with the postconviction court.
Miera’s wife stated in court that the defendant had threatened “to burn down the trailer with me and my kids in it.” She also testified about the defendant’s past drug use. Later, the postconviction court found that it was reasonable not to object to evidence of the threats because it showed Miera suffered from a mental illness and thus supported the insanity defense.
“Because defendant has not shown that any error was ‘sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome,’ he is not entitled to postconviction relief,” Kapelke wrote in the Oct. 25 judgment.