A Larimer County jury convicted Shawna Nelson in March 2008 after evidence was presented during the course of a two-week trial that indicated a jilted Nelson murdered Heather Garraus outside a Greeley credit union.
Nelson is serving a mandatory life sentence without the option of parole at a prison in Pueblo.
In a letter to Weld County District Court Judge James Hartmann obtained by 9NEWS, Nelson maintains her innocence and accuses the public defenders who represented her at trial of being ineffective counsel. She requested a 35(c) hearing, which would give her the chance to attack her conviction on the grounds of ineffective counsel.
Prosecutors argued at the trial Nelson killed Heather Garraus because she came to view her as the obstacle in the way of a family life with Ignacio Garraus.
Nelson is a former police and sheriff dispatcher in Weld County and was married to Ken Nelson, an investigator with the Weld County Sheriff's Office. Her ex-lover and father of one of her children, Ignacio Garraus, is a former police officer in Greeley.
The case was moved to Larimer County after prosecutors argued it would be difficult to find jurors who did not have connections to the more than 300 potential witnesses in the case. Larimer County prosecutors handled the case after Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck withdrew his office, citing a brief relationship between Ken Nelson and a deputy prosecutor in the office.
Nelson's intentions to drop her appeal and request the 35(c) hearing are "huge mistakes," according to 9NEWS legal analyst and defense attorney Scott Robinson.
"It's best to exhaust the direct appeal right first because once it's dropped, it isn't coming back," Robinson said. "The standard of review during direct appeal is more lenient than during a (35(c))."
Robinson also said a judge cannot consider the request for the 35(c) hearing while the case is still under the jurisdiction of the appellate courts. He said Nelson would have to drop her appeal or ask for her case to be remanded to the trial court before the judge could even consider the 35(c) request.
Nelson has sent a letter to a state appellate public defender notifying the office of her intention to stop the appeals process.
"Please consider this my formal request to stop my appeals process at this time," Nelson wrote in the letter. "I am seeking other forms of post conviction relief and will not be needing your services."
Robinson said before the appeal is dropped, the appellate courts would have to grant a motion to drop the appeal filed by either Nelson or her attorney.
If Nelson changes her mind about dropping her appeal and instead asks for her case to be remanded to the trial court for the purposes of a 35(c) hearing, she's not likely to be successful according to Robinson.
"The court is not likely to grant a limited remand for such an ambitious purpose," he said.
In addition to the letter to Hartmann, Nelson also sent a 109 page document to the judge outlining the ways she believes her trial attorneys, Kevin Strobel and Annette Kundelius, were ineffective and how she claims she received an unfair trial.
"Unfortunately, after reviewing the discovery, the official court transcript and the witness recorded interviews, it is obvious that I not only did not receive a fair trial, but that witnesses were not called, experts were not called, alternate suspects were not investigated by my own public defenders," Nelson said in the letter to Hartmann.
Strobel said on Tuesday evening he was aware of Nelson's court filings, but said he had no comment on the matter.
Larimer County Assistant District Attorney Clifford Riedel said he has not received the court filings, but that he was surprised at Nelson's legal maneuvers. He said it is almost standard procedure for convicts to request a 35(c) hearing, but that it always happens after the appellate process plays out.
"It used to be a rare occasion," Riedel said of the 35(c) hearing request. "But in 2009, it's standard course."
Nelson also still maintains she is innocent according to her statements in the letter to Hartmann.
"A life was taken and the person who committed this crime must be held accountable," she wrote. "I am not that person."
This story written by Nate Taylor, Fort Collins Coloradoan.
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