Prosecutors seek to appeal ruling to dismiss case under new Utah self-defense law

Apr 12, 2022, 6:44 PM | Updated: Jun 11, 2022, 10:50 pm
Third District Judge Todd Shaughnessy presiding over a hearing in Jon Michael Clara's case on March...
Third District Judge Todd Shaughnessy presiding over a hearing in Jon Michael Clara's case on March 4, 2022.

SALT LAKE COUNTY – Prosecutors are seeking to appeal a judge’s decision to throw out a felony firearms case against a Utah man who claimed self-defense under a new, controversial Utah law.

Jon Michael Clara fired several shots toward another vehicle after it crashed into his in 2019. After successfully urging lawmakers to pass HB227 in 2021, the new self-defense law worked in Clara’s favor.

In a new type of pretrial hearing afforded to Clara under the law, the burden shifted to prosecutors to prove with clear and convincing evidence – a high legal bar – that Clara was not acting in self-defense or the defense of others.

“I was just aiming to let him know, if you come back this way, you know, you’re going to get shot,” Clara testified during a November hearing.

During a hearing in March, the judge said he believed a jury should decide whether Clara was justified when he opened fire and noted the shooting endangered others, but ultimately said he felt the new law “tied” his hands.

“This is one instance in which the state can appeal. I would encourage the state to do that to seek some clarity on exactly what this new law means,” said Third District Judge Todd Shaughnessy.

Online court records show prosecutors filed a notice of appeal on April 1.

Defense attorney Clayton Simms said he and his client believe the judge made the right decision.

“In many ways I think prosecutors are performing CPR on a corpse,” said Simms. “The case is dead and they’re trying to revive it, but in my opinion, it’s not going to come back.”

The KSL Investigators first reported on the new law’s unintended consequences and have followed multiple cases testing the new statute.

Earlier this month, a different judge ruled a similar case should advance to trial. The individual charged, Faalae So’o, is accused of firing several shots toward fleeing vehicles, leaving a then 18-year-old passenger permanently paralyzed from the waist down.

In that case, Third District Judge William Kendall denied the defense’s motion to dismiss the case, saying that evidence presented by prosecutors showed So’o and his family were not in imminent danger when he opened fire.

“Warning shots are not justified under Utah law,” Kendall said.

Tuesday, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill’s office confirmed Clara’s case is the first in the county prosecutors have filed to appeal under the new law.

However, Simms noted the Attorney General’s Office is the only agency that can appeal felony cases and could still reject the appeal case.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

KSL Investigates

Matt Gephardt

Get Gephardt: How do you know if your donation really gets to those who need it?

Fundraising runs rampant on social media, but how do you know if your donation really gets to those who need it?
2 days ago
After a contractor got paid, customers say he stopped responding and walked off the job. (KSL TV)...
Matt Gephardt and Cindy St. Clair

Felony charges for contractor accused of ripping off several Utahns

After a contractor got paid, customers say he stopped responding and walked off the job. A Get Gephardt investigation found this particular contractor has walked off so many jobs it could land him behind bars.
3 days ago
Christopher Browning in court....
Daniella Rivera & Keira Farrimond

Police were warned rapist could reoffend 24 years ago. Now he’s charged again.

A convicted rapist paroled in December faced a Utah judge today on 10 new felony charges including aggravated sexual assault and kidnapping.
4 days ago
Matt Gephardt and Cindy St. Clair

After new homes flood, residents question if builder or Mother Nature is to blame

Several new homes in a Lehi community flooded during rainstorms earlier this month. When they say the home builder told them they weren’t responsible, they decided to Get Gephardt to investigate.
5 days ago
Matt Gephardt

Get Gephardt: The ‘most used’ photos to catfish victims in romance scams

KSL Investigator Matt Gephardt shows us some of the most widely used photos in romance scams and how we can protect ourselves.
6 days ago
Americans are using their credit cards more often as the economy opens....
Matt Gephardt

Gephardt Busts Inflation: The key to saving money on your credit card bills

More Utahns are carrying debt, but the thing is – many of those folks have no idea how much interest they are paying on their debt.
10 days ago

Sponsored Articles

vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Prosecutors seek to appeal ruling to dismiss case under new Utah self-defense law