OGDEN -- Doug Lovell's attorneys want everybody out of the room when plans for the formerly convicted murderer's defense are unveiled.
The case is an unusual one. Lovell took the stand at his 1993 sentencing hearing and openly described how and why he killed Joyce Yost in 1985. He was sentenced to death, a conviction since overturned.
Lovell's public defenders now seek to close the courtroom when asking for funds to hire experts for Lovell's coming trial. It's the first motion filed by the defense since the Utah Supreme Court voted in July 2010 to allow Lovell to withdraw his guilty plea.
The motion asks that the coming funding requests be heard by 2nd District Judge Michael Lyon "ex parte, under seal, and in camera." The legalese means, respectively, with only defense attorneys present, documents kept confidential and aired only in the judge's chambers.
The motion makes no mention about what particular experts, plural, will be sought, but details the extensive case law that allows for "safeguarding defense strategy from the government."
Public defenders here are often in the position of asking prosecutors, the opposition, for fees to cover their cases, as Weber County funds both prosecutors and public defenders locally. The county attorney's office has a role in advising how legal fees are allocated.
The office maintains a "Chinese wall" policy in that civil attorneys -- nonprosecutors -- are banned from divulging to their prosecutor co-workers any public defender funding requests.
A privately funded defense never faces that problem, argue Lovell's public defenders, Mike Bouwhuis and Sean Young.
The court-appointed counsel say extra measures are necessary because of the seriousness of the case against Lovell, which could end in his execution.
"Time and again the U.S. Supreme Court has condemned procedures in capital cases that might be completely acceptable in an ordinary case," they write.
While civil attorneys in the Weber County Attorney's Office "may have every intention of ensuring that the Chinese wall functions properly," the motion reads, "a variety of ways exist in which information could be mistakenly provided to the prosecuting attorneys."
Both the civil attorneys and the prosecuting attorneys are in the same physical space, sharing the same entrances, support staff, computer network, printer, and all files and equipment in the office. The extra steps should be taken to "insure ... this case does not have to be litigated a third time," the motion concludes.
The case is set for a status conference Jan. 12 before Judge Lyon.
Lovell is currently serving a sentence of 15 years to life for the 1985 rape of Yost, who disappeared that year. Lovell said in his 1993 sworn testimony he killed her to prevent her from testifying about the rape.
Lovell, 53, got off death row in July 2010 after almost 17 years there when the Utah Supreme Court ruled he could withdraw his guilty plea, citing technical errors when the plea was entered in 1993.
The high court ruled that Lovell was not specifically informed of his 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 now call such omissions harmless error could not be applied retroactively to Lovell.