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Court rejects convicted killer's appeal of 'natural life' sentence

Elroy Tillman
Posted at 3:13 PM, Jun 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-23 17:38:50-04

DENVER — A federal appeals court has rejected an appeal by a convicted killer whose death penalty sentence was overturned, only to be given a "natural life" sentence by Utah's Board of Pardons & Parole.

Elroy Tillman was convicted in the 1982 murder of Mark Schoenfeld, who was beaten to death and set on fire inside his Salt Lake City home. Tillman was originally sentenced to death, but after it was disclosed that information from the case was withheld from his lawyers, the Utah Supreme Court ordered him to be resentenced.

That led to a five years-to-life sentence. But the state parole board then converted it to a "natural life" sentence. Tillman appealed.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the appeal on Wednesday.

"To make this showing, he must demonstrate 'reasonable jurists could debate whether (or, for that matter, agree that) the petition should have been resolved in a different manner or . . . the issues presented were adequate to deserve encouragement to proceed further,'" Judge Michael Murphy wrote. "Tillman has failed to make the requisite showing."