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Premeditated first-degree murder conviction upheld

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DENVER – A grisly crime three years ago on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation resurfaced in federal appellate court Feb. 4 when one of four convicted killers unsuccessfully challenged his conviction on charges of premeditated first degree murder.

Isaac Headman, 28, was sentenced to federal prison for life without the possibility of parole in January 2009 for his part in the 2007 murder of Clifton Joseph Greany, 31, Southern Cheyenne, near Ignacio in southwestern Colorado.

Also sentenced to more than 20 years imprisonment for first degree murder and related crimes were April Watts, 22; Monica Williams, 25; and Johnita Taylor, 33. Headman and the other three convicted were identified as American Indian in court records although tribal affiliation was not specified.

Greany was murdered Aug. 23, 2007 after he had been drinking with the four convicted of his killing and others in Ignacio, a community that is headquarters of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, and after an argument that resulted in his being placed in the trunk of a car and driven to a location near a maintenance yard on the reservation, court records state.

Williams testified she stabbed Greany in the neck and Watts testified she had held the knife to Greany’s throat and Williams stepped on it but failed to drive it in. Headman tried unsuccessfully to push the knife in, stomped on Greany’s face, and then held the knife as Watts stepped on it, forcing it through Greany’s throat, according to court records.

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Williams, Watts and Headman stabbed and stomped on Greany with encouragement from Taylor, who feared disclosure of their assault, and he died from multiple stab wounds and blunt-force injuries, the records show.

Williams and Watts, who had shared a cell at the Southern Ute Detention Center following the crime, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and cooperated with the government in exchange for a lower recommended sentence and dismissal of certain charges,

In his appeal to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court, Headman claimed the government violated its duties by not disclosing the two had shared a cell and said the jury should have been told an intoxication defense should apply to aiding and abetting first-degree premeditated murder as well as to the murder charge itself. The verdict did not indicate whether he was convicted as the actual killer or as an aider and abettor.

The appeals court said there was no evidence Williams and Watts had discussed the case or that their testimony had been affected in a way that would have changed the trial’s outcome, nor was it apparent there was error in jury instructions about the intoxication defense.

The court agreed that double jeopardy barred Headman’s convictions for both felony murder and a lesser but included kidnapping offense and instructed the lower court to vacate one of the two convictions.