Tuesday , October 03, 2017 - 4:10 PM
In this Friday, May 5, 2017 photo, Tisha Morley, left, listens as her attorneys, Jason Widdison, center, and Logan Bushell, right, converse during her trial in Ogden, Utah. Jurors on Tuesday, May 26, 2017, began deliberations on whether they believe the assertion from prosecutors that Morley, a northern Utah daycare owner, killed an 8-month-old boy by slamming his head on a changing table in frustration. (Sarah Welliver/Standard-Examiner via AP)
OGDEN — Former Roy daycare provider Tisha Morley will be sentenced later this month after a judge denied a motion alleging the prosecution violated court rules during her trial and her sentence should be reduced.
Oral arguments took place Tuesday between Weber County prosecutors and Morley’s attorneys, Logan Bushell and Jason Widdison.
The two attorneys appeared with Morley in 2nd District Court to contend prosecutors did not follow proper protocol when calling witnesses, which then impacted the decision in Morley’s guilty verdict.
On May 16, a jury found Morley guilty of felony child abuse homicide in the 2014 death of 8-month-old Lincoln Penland.
One element of the motion contended Weber County district attorneys did not provide sufficient evidence to convict Morley of child abuse homicide, a first-degree felony. The motion was an attempt to lessen her sentence to a lesser offense without calling for a new trial.
The second part of the motion contended that prosecutor Branden Miles did not give Morley’s attorneys enough time to anticipate two witnesses being called to the stand during the trial. The witnesses were two parents to a 4-year-old child who was in Morley’s care when the child suffered the fatal injuries.
The 4-year-old said during interviews with the Children’s Justice Center said she saw another child “stomp” and “slam a door” on Lincoln’s head. The defense wanted to call the parents in to testify on the child’s credibility as a witness.
Before they could do so, prosecutors told Morley’s attorneys they were calling in the parents in to testify, a move Morley’s attorneys said was a “surprise.”
Initially, the parents’ testimony was pushed back in order for the defense to prepare, but Judge Scott Hadley later ruled the lack of notice was a discovery violation. Neither side ended up calling the parents as witnesses.
Morley’s attorneys said this move was a violation of court rules because the state did not adequately notify them ahead of time and later prevented them from calling the parents as witnesses.
Prosecutors responded to the motion by denying the witness issue impacted the trial in a major way, with attorney Christopher Shaw saying the issue is a “far cry” from misconduct.
Deputy Weber County Attorney Letitia Toombs laid out the evidence against Morley in the effort to uphold the child abuse homicide conviction.
After a 90 minute recess, Judge Hadley denied the motion, explaining the state supplied sufficient evidence for the felony conviction, and the issue with the witnesses did not have a large enough impact on the jury’s decision.
Morley will be sentenced on Wednesday, Oct. 18, at 2nd District Court in Ogden.