OGDEN -- Doug Lovell's first hearing on the latest turn in his 26-year prosecution that once had him on death row is set for next month.
Lovell is currently serving a 15-years-to-life sentence for the 1985 rape of Joyce Yost, of South Ogden. She disappeared that year, and he was charged with her murder in 1992.
A year later, he pleaded guilty to the slaying and was sentenced to death. Lovell detailed in sworn testimony at his sentencing hearing his killing of the 39-year-old Yost, meant to prevent her from testifying to the rape.
The mystifying vagaries of the appeals process have sent the case back to Ogden. At a July 20 telephone conference, 2nd District Judge Michael Lyon scheduled an Aug. 15 status conference to begin the road toward Lovell's trial. Lovell will be transported from the state prison for the hearing, where the most pressing issue is appointing his public defenders.
In the consultation with Deputy Weber County Attorney Gary Heward and Mike Bouwhuis, coordinator of the county's public defenders, Lyon also asked that coming defense motions be addressed.
Heward, who was in the room for Lovell's sworn confession in 1993, said he expects a defense challenge of that rare testimony from the accused.
"It's a unique situation, certainly," he said. "I don't know under what theory it could ever be excluded, or found inadmissible. It was certainly voluntary, but I'm sure there will be motions from the defense."
The transcript of Lovell's admissions on the stand have traveled with the court documents over the many years of appeals. There may be an audiotape, as well, Heward said.
The case file only returned to 2nd District Court last week after the Utah Supreme Court's decision last year to allow Lovell to withdraw his 1993 guilty plea over technical errors. It took a year for the high court to clarify the decision in accordance with requests from the Utah Attorney General's Office.
In 1993 Lovell spent five weeks trying to lead authorities to where he said he buried Yost in Ogden Valley, a search that included backhoes and a cadaver dog. Prosecutors were willing to forgo execution if Lovell could produce her remains.
When nothing was found, Heward and fellow Deputy Weber County Attorney Bill Daines asked for and received the death penalty for Lovell from now-retired 2nd District Judge Stanton Taylor. Heward and Daines will be teaming up for the case again.
On July 27, 2010, the Utah Supreme Court ruled that Taylor, in taking Lovell's guilty plea in 1993, erred in not informing him specifically in open court that he had the right to trial before an impartial jury bound by the presumption of innocence. The justices also ruled that new rules of evidence introduced in 2005 that call such omissions harmless error could not be applied retroactively to Lovell.
The high court found that Taylor's omissions regarding the guilty plea trod on Lovell's rights, despite the fact that Lovell, now 53, was a veteran of the judicial system who had been in and out of prison since he was 19.