HOUSTON — A federal appeals court has rejected an appeal from a female former Naval Academy midshipman serving a life sentence in Texas for the 1995 slaying of the high school girlfriend of her former Air Force Academy boyfriend.
Diane Zamora appealed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals after a lower court refused her civil rights lawsuit against Texas prison officials. She argued that her move from protective custody at one prison to general population at another threatened her safety because of animosity from inmates due to the high-profile nature of her case.
Zamora, now 40, and former boyfriend David Graham were convicted of killing Adrianne Jones, a sophomore at Mansfield High School, southwest of Dallas, where Graham was an honor student. At the same time in 1995, Zamora was an honor student at nearby Crowley High School, south of Fort Worth. They were dating when Graham confessed to Zamora that he had sex with Jones, his teammate on the cross country team.
The 5th Circuit ruling upholds the summary judgment in favor of Texas prison officials that was issued by Waco-based U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman in January 2017, 14 months after Zamora filed the lawsuit.
"In essence, Zamora's contentions boil down to a disagreement with prison officials over her housing status," the 5th Circuit said late Monday in its four-page ruling that found no constitutional violation with her imprisonment.
Court documents show Zamora had been housed in a "safekeeping" cell at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Mountain View Unit outside Gatesville and was moved to another Central Texas female prison, the Hobby Unit, where she was placed in general population. Acting as her own attorney in her lawsuit, Zamora argued she became a target for threats and assaults from other inmates because stories about her case were available in the prison library, that a movie had been made about her and that she had been in demand for media interviews.
In his ruling last year, Pitman said there was no evidence to show "having a high-profile case entitles a prisoner to safekeeping" and that evidence of assaults related to the nature of her case "is far from reliable."
As an inmate in safekeeping, she was housed in an air-conditioned cell and had her own television. In filings, Zamora said her only friend in prison was Yolanda Saldivar, another high-profile inmate convicted of the 1995 shooting death of Tejano singing star Selena Quintanilla-Perez.
Prison records Tuesday showed Zamora was housed temporarily at the Mountain View Unit, where she arrived earlier this month. Records also show she had a stint at a prison psychiatric unit earlier this year.
Zamora was a freshman at Annapolis and her then fiance, Graham, was in his first year at the Air Force Academy when in September 1996 they acknowledged the slaying. In separate interviews with police, they gave similar stories about driving Jones to a remote spot at a lake in Grand Prairie in the southern part of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Zamora hitting the girl with a barbell and Graham shooting her as she tried to flee. Both said the slaying was to appease Zamora, who was enraged that Jones and Graham slept together once.
Graham said Zamora gave him an ultimatum: kill Jones or risk her leaving him or committing suicide. Zamora said at her trial that Graham killed Jones alone.
According to court testimony, Zamora started telling other midshipmen that her boyfriend had killed a girl in Texas to prove his love for her. Someone told academy officials who notified Grand Prairie authorities, leading to their arrests.
Graham, also 40, is imprisoned at the Allred Unit northwest of Wichita Falls in far North Central Texas. He and Zamora become eligible for parole in 2036.