OGDEN — Accused killer Doug Lovell is still writing letters complaining about his legal representation.
Lovell, 54, came off death row in July 2010 after almost 17 years there when the Utah Supreme Court ruled he could withdraw his guilty plea to aggravated murder. The justices cited technical errors when the plea was entered in 1993.
Lovell’s case perplexes in that he took the stand at his 1993 sentencing hearing to explain how and why he killed 39-year-old Joyce Yost, of South Ogden.
Last month 2nd District Judge Michael Lyon ruled that complaints about one of his two public defenders that Lovell had been writing in letters since August did not warrant replacing the lawyer. Lovell mostly complained about a lack of communication with Mike Bouwhuis.
Last week, Lovell wrote another letter to Lyon from the Utah State Prison, saying he refused to work with the court-appointed Bouwhuis.
“It is obvious to me and should have been to this court that Mr. Bouwhuis and I’s attorney-client relationship has reached a point of no return,” Lovell said in the half-page letter.
Lyon, the day after receiving the letter, scheduled a status conference for Dec. 20.
In September, Lyon directed that Lovell and Bouwhuis write him letters under seal explaining their disagreement. Sealing the letters keeps confidential the details on trial strategy, which prosecutors are not entitled to see.
Lovell then wrote letters to Lyon on Oct. 1, Oct. 19, Oct. 22 and Nov. 7, according to court records. Bouwhuis responded on Oct. 10, including an affidavit, and on Oct. 29.
In the past, Bouwhuis has declined to comment on Lovell’s concerns and letters, citing attorney-client privilege. He did not return calls seeking comment on Lovell’s latest letter.
Lovell’s trial is set for the bulk of the month of February 2014, the date set out more than a year anticipating the slew of defense motions common to any death penalty case.
One motion Bouwhuis and co-counsel Sean Young have said is in the works is a bid to suppress Lovell’s sworn, open-court confession from the stand at his 1993 sentencing hearing.
That year 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, deputy Weber County attorneys Gary Heward and Bill Daines asked for, and received, the death penalty for Lovell.
Lovell is still serving a term of 15 years to life for the 1985 rape of Yost. She disappeared that year, strangled by Lovell to prevent her from testifying about the rape, according to his testimony at his sentencing hearing. He was charged with her murder in 1992.