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Barton Review?

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

The Colorado Supreme Court is considering whether to review the 12-year state prison sentence handed down to a woman who started the worst wildfire in Colorado's history.

Attorney General John Suthers' office filed a motion asking for the review, saying the Colorado Court of Appeals misinterpreted a U-S Supreme Court ruling in a separate case.

Terry Barton was sentenced to six years in prison on federal charges for starting the 138-thousand-acre "Hayman" fire in June 2002. That's in addition to a 12-year term on state charges.

The appeals court ordered in December that Barton be re-sentenced on the Colorado charges -- deciding that the presiding judge had at least "the appearance of prejudice" because smoke from the fire forced him to evacuate his home.

Assistant Attorney General Paul Koehler says in his motion that the appeals court incorrectly applied a ruling from the nation's highest court, which said a judge was only able to impose the statutory maximum sentence based on the facts of a case.

Koehler says a judge's legal conclusion about facts -- not the facts themselves -- authorize a sentence outside the presumptive range. He says a sentencing court's findings that extraordinary circumstances exist and justify a lengthy sentence is a conclusion of law -- not a finding of fact.

Barton admitted starting the wildfire when she burned a letter from her ex-husband.

The fire destroyed 300 buildings and caused more than 29 (m) million dollars in damage.


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