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Wednesday, February 18, 1998

Zamora found guilty of capital murder

By CHRIS NEWTON / Associated Press Writer

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- Former Naval Academy midshipman Diane Zamora, once an ambitious honor student with dreams of becoming an astronaut, instead will spend 40 years behind bars for killing a romantic rival.

A jury deliberated for six hours Monday, then needed only minutes Tuesday morning to convict Ms. Zamora of the Dec. 4, 1995, slaying of 16-year-old Adrianne Jones of Mansfield.

Showing no emotion as the verdict was read, Ms. Zamora automatically received a life sentence because prosecutors were not seeking the death penalty. She will be eligible for parole after 40 years.

During the two-week trial, Ms. Zamora tearfully told the jury that she confessed to police under duress. The 20-year-old defendant said she had merely read, memorized and repeated the same statement given by then-fiance David Graham, a former Air Force Academy cadet.

One juror who requested anonymity told The Associated Press that her confession was the most damning piece of evidence.

"No matter how you look at it, Adrianne Jones would still be alive if not for Diane Zamora. That seemed obvious even though the specifics were sometimes cloudy," the juror said.

Prosecutors said Ms. Zamora and Graham, her high school sweetheart whom she planned to wed after they graduated from their respective military academies, killed Miss Jones to cleanse their relationship after Graham and the girl had a one-time affair.

Miss Jones' father, mother and two brothers spoke to the court following the verdict. Ms. Zamora continued to remain stone-faced, although many in the courtroom dabbed their eyes.

"We all loved and enjoyed Adrianne very much," said the girl's father, Bill Jones, speaking slowly while fighting his emotions. "We all looked forward to a life with her. ... We will never know what heights she would have (risen) to because of this animal act. And we shall have to wonder the rest of our lives."

Ms. Zamora's family appeared solemn as state District Judge Joe Drago read the verdict. When he read the sentence, one of her relatives gasped "Oh, God!" and several others began crying, clutching each other. One family member collapsed in the crowded courtroom while the group prayed in a circle with their pastor.

Later, Carlos Zamora, Ms. Zamora's father, thanked the defense team and said his family had made peace with the verdict.

"I thank God for being in control," he said. "We believe in in Diane. We love her."

Lead prosecutor Mike Parrish said he was stunned by Ms. Zamora's lack of reaction Tuesday. Then, he used her own words against her.

"As she once said about Adrianne, 'She deserved it. She deserved what she got,' " Parrish said.

Defense attorney John Linebarger said the prosecution never proved its case. "There are a number of things we will base an appeal on ... the judge's not letting the jury consider a murder charge, the admission of David Graham's statement as evidence," Linebarger said.

Drago told jurors Monday that they must decide whether Ms. Zamora was guilty of capital murder or the lesser charges of kidnapping, false imprisonment or assault. He did not give them the option of murder, a minor victory for prosecutors who said they wanted only capital murder considered because the evidence didn't support a lesser offense.

The juror who spoke to the AP said much of the panel's discussion was about Texas' law of parties, which states that any accomplices must be charged with the same crime as if they committed it.

"We felt she was an accessory, but a lot of people felt like she didn't commit a violent act or commit a head injury," the juror said. "Some felt she didn't deserve to do life in prison ... but we followed the judge's orders and the law."

Shortly after Miss Jones was murdered, a 17-year-old Mansfield youth was charged as a suspect. Bryan McMillan was released from jail when no physical evidence could link him to the crime and he passed a polygraph.

For months, the trail was cold. Then authorities were tipped by Ms. Zamora's friends, where she was a freshman at the U.S. Naval Academy. They said she confessed to them about the girl's death.

Ms. Zamora admitted to the slaying shortly after being arrested in September 1996. Graham also was taken into custody.

In separate interviews with police, Graham and Ms. Zamora gave similar stories about driving Miss Jones to a remote lake, where Ms. Zamora hit the girl with a barbell and Graham shot her as she tried to flee.

Both said the slaying was to appease Ms. Zamora, who was enraged that Miss Jones and Graham had sex once.

Defense attorneys tried to portray Ms. Zamora as a polite, ambitious, academic all-star who became a victim of mental and sexual abuse by Graham, whom they described as manipulative and domineering.

While admitting she was present when Miss Jones died, Ms. Zamora testified that she did not strike the girl and was horrified when Graham pulled the trigger.

"We didn't talk about it much but I was supposed to take the blame for everything," Ms. Zamora testified, explaining why she mimicked his statement. "The way we saw it, he still had a future at the Air Force Academy and mine was pretty much over."

Prosecutors offered several witnesses who said Ms. Zamora confessed to the killing and showed no remorse.

Naval Academy roommate Jennifer McKearney told jurors that Ms. Zamora said Miss Jones was a "tramp." College friend Jay Guild said Ms. Zamora told him she'd kill Miss Jones again if she could.

Ms. Zamora told the jury those prosecution witnesses were either lying or misunderstood her.

Assistant prosecutor Michele Hartmann portrayed Ms. Zamora's contentions as a "national conspiracy theory."

"By her words, she is the victim of the justice system, a lying best friend, lying roommate, an abusive boyfriend and even of the U.S. Naval Academy," Ms. Hartmann said during closing arguments.

The sensational case has made national headlines and been the focus of two books and a television movie.

Graham will be tried on a capital murder charge later this year.

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