SALT LAKE CITY — A man convicted of shooting his ex-girlfriend to death in 2003 has lost an appeal that challenged the constitutional sufficiency of his defense.
Trovon Donta Ross, now 45, shot Annie Christensen, 23, in the head, neck and abdomen in her Clinton residence on June 30, 2003, and shot her new boyfriend, Air Force Staff Sgt. James Thomas May III, in the chest and arm.
Christensen died and May was able to get away and survived.
A jury convicted Ross of aggravated murder and attempted aggravated murder on Nov. 8, 2004, in Farmington.
Ross waived his right to be sentenced by a jury in exchange for prosecutors’ recommendation of life in prison without parole rather than the death penalty.
Second District Judge Rodney Page, following through with that agreement, sentenced Ross to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
That commenced nearly 15 years of appeals, topped off by a 33-page Utah Supreme Court ruling dated Thursday.
Attorneys representing Ross in the most recent appeal argued that Ross’s right to an adequate defense under the 6th Amendment was violated by allegedly ineffective counsel by his trial attorneys and his initial appellate attorney.
The defense attorneys erred by not raising a defense that Ross was under “extreme emotional distress” when he arrived to find Christensen and May had spent the night together, the Supreme Court was told.
That supposed error was compounded by his first appellate attorney not heeding “red flags” and not arguing that the trial lawyers had provided ineffective counsel by failing to raise such a defense, the high court was told.
In a subsequent appeal, a 2nd District Court judge ruled the appellate attorney should have raised such a defense. That resulted in additional evidentiary hearings over the ineffective counsel question, and then the latest appeal before the Supreme Court.
But the Supreme Court ruled that although Ross did receive ineffective counsel, the record of evidentiary hearings in the appeal amply showed that the outcome of the trial would not have been different.
That is because Davis County prosecutors said they were prepared to present additional evidence that Ross had a violent past with Christensen and other women.
Ross had become controlling of Christensen and she was “terrified” of Ross, who had slapped and pushed her, prosecutors said.
They added that Christensen had attempted to end the relationship and moved to a different home and changed her phone number to escape Ross.