OGDEN — Defense attorneys will be filing a motion to suppress Doug Lovell’s sworn, open-court confession from the stand to the 1985 murder of Joyce Yost.
Lovell, 54, got off death row in July 2010 after almost 17 years there, when the Utah Supreme Court ruled he could withdraw his guilty plea to the murder, citing technical errors when the plea was entered in 1993.
Lovell is still serving a 15-years-to-life term for the 1985 rape of Yost. She disappeared that year. Lovell wasn’t charged with her murder until 1992. A year later, he pleaded guilty to the slaying and was sentenced to death.
At his 1993 sentencing hearing, Lovell detailed in sworn testimony his killing of Yost, 39, of South Ogden, strangling her to prevent her from testifying about the rape.
“Yes, it is conceivable that it’s not admissible at trial,” said Mike Bouwhuis, Lovell’s lead public defender. “We are targeting the sentencing testimony.”
Bouwhuis said there is case law that “suggests” statements at sentencing can’t be used against a defendant if the case is later overturned.
“It creates a disincentive to be open and forthcoming at sentencing if you know it might be used against you. … There’s this idea that you reverse everything and start over when you succeed on appeal,” he said.
Exactly when the motion will be filed is up in the air, with recent complaints about his defense from Lovell in letters to 2nd District Judge Michael Lyon and the Utah Supreme Court to be dealt with first.
Deputy Weber County Attorney Gary Heward said prosecutors were aware the suppression motion was coming and was almost completed, but now it’s on hold since Lovell’s complaints were raised earlier this month.
“We will obviously verify what they claim and conduct our own review to see if the law allows (the jury) to hear his sworn testimony from 1993,” Heward said.
He said it’s too early to tell if the case law Lovell’s defense team is alluding to is tied to a homicide case, or a lesser crime.
“If it’s a more serious crime, is it more likely admissible? I don’t know the answer to that,” he said.
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 lead them to 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 the late 2nd District Judge Stanton Taylor.
Heward and Daines are prosecuting the case again.