SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Supreme Court wants the appellate court to decide if convicted murderer Trovon Donta Ross received ineffective counsel in his appeal.
The ruling was handed down Friday. Ross was convicted of aggravated murder by a 12-member jury in 2004 in 2nd District Court in Farmington.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court remanded the case to the appellate court to hold an evidentiary hearing “on the issue of whether Mr. Ross’s appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise a claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel.”
Ross, now 38, was convicted of murdering Annalee Christensen, 23, of Clinton.
Christensen was shot three times in her home on June 30, 2003.
Ross is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. He decided minutes before the penalty phase of his trial was to begin to accept the sentence of life without parole instead of taking his chances that the jury would decide on the death penalty.
In 2007, in a 3-2 ruling, the Supreme Court vacated Ross’ conviction of attempted murder, a first-degree felony, for shooting Air Force Staff Sgt. James T. May III, who was at Christensen’s home when Ross arrived with a loaded gun.
Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings said in a written statement about Friday’s ruling, “Trovon Ross remains a convicted murderer. The Utah Supreme Court’s decision is limited in scope. The opinion is an effort to make sure the defendant’s rights to a fair appeal and trial were not prejudiced by inadequate defense lawyering.
“We applaud the Utah Supreme Court for caring about fairness. As always, we share in such concerns, but are confident that the convictions will remain intact and that defense counsel at both stages was more than constitutionally adequate. The decision means that the defendant gets to play the ineffective assistance of counsel (that he had a bad attorney on appeal and maybe at trial) cards. This is not unusual.”