Diane Zamora, a once-promising Naval Academy cadet who was sentenced in 1998 to life in prison for helping her boyfriend kill a 16-year-old Mansfield romantic rival, has lost a legal fight over her prison housing.
Zamora, now 40, had filed a civil rights complaint, alleging that Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials violated her constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment when they moved her out of protective custody.
Zamora said protective custody was necessary because her case had generated national media attention. Her notoriety, she argued, exposed her to threats and assaults by other inmates.
A lower court had refused Zamora’s civil rights lawsuit, prompting her to appeal to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
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On Monday, the federal appeals court affirmed the lower court’s decision.
Zamora and David Graham were high school students when Graham confessed to Zamora that he’d had a one-time tryst with Adrianne Jones, a 16-year-old classmate at Mansfield High School.
Angry, Zamora insisted the only way to fix things was to kill Jones.
Jones was lured by Graham out of her Mansfield home in December 1995, then driven to near Joe Pool Lake in Grand Prairie while Zamora hid in the back of the car.
There, Jones was hit in the head with weights and a gun. She escaped from the car but was fatally shot nearby.
The case went unsolved until September 1996, when police arrested Graham and Zamora. At the time of their arrests, Zamora was a Naval Academy midshipman and Graham, an Air Force Academy cadet.
They were each sentenced in 1998 to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for 40 years.
The case had prompted true crime documentaries, a TV movie and at least two books.
In a prison interview with People Magazine Investigates in December 2016, Zamora continued to deny that she helped kill Jones but admitted witnessing her death and helping to conceal it.
“She wouldn’t have been in that position had I not lost my temper,” she said in the interview.
Zamora had been held in protective custody at the Mountain View Unit in Gatesville, but was later moved to general population at the Hobby Unit in Marlin.
“In essence, Zamora’s contentions boil down to a disagreement with prison officials over her housing status,” the appeals court stated in its recent opinion.
“... She has presented no evidence showing that there is a genuine issue whether the defendants were subjectively aware that transferring her to general population at the Hobby Unit would expose her to a substantial risk of serious harm,” the opinion states.
On Tuesday, prison officials confirmed Zamora had been transferred back to the Mountain View Unit from the Hobby Unit on July 13. Robert Hurst, a Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman, said Tuesday that the placement may only be temporary.
Hurst said he could not divulge whether Zamora was being held in protective custody.
Zamora does not become eligible for parole until September 2036.
Graham, who becomes eligible for parole at that same time, is held at the Allred Unit in Iowa Park, prison records show.