OGDEN — Trial has been set for next year for Matthew David Stewart in the shootout with police at his home that left one officer dead and five injured.
Stewart faces the death penalty if convicted in the fatal shooting of officer Jared Francom. He is also charged with seven counts of attempted aggravated murder for allegedly shooting at seven other officers, hitting five.
Stewart was also shot during the 25-minute altercation that ensued Jan. 4, 2012, after the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force broke down his door to serve a marijuana search warrant.
At a status conference Wednesday, 2nd District Judge Noel Hyde scheduled trial for April 16 through May 16 of next year. He also set a May 22 status conference for this year, as well as a July 31 deadline this year for expected defense motions.
Lead defense counsel Randy Richards told the judge he would be filing a number of constitutional challenges to the death penalty, including the many he has filed in three other death penalty cases he has taken up since 2006. Those typically challenged capital punishment on such grounds as cruel and unusual punishment or violation of international treaties.
He also said he planned some on new grounds.
“I have a couple unique ones I plan on filing at some point,” he said, declining to elaborate.
Stewart is being held without bail in Weber County Jail. He and family and supporters who have rallied on the Internet and elsewhere maintain Stewart thought he was being robbed when the officers forcibly entered his home. They depict him as a victim of increasingly militarized police tactics highlighted by growing numbers of commando-style “home invasion” raids.
Richards and Deputy Weber County Attorney Sandra Corp also presented oral arguments briefly Wednesday on the first motion Richards has filed challenging the death penalty. Richards argues the statute is unconstitutional in asking a jury to weigh aggravating versus mitigating factors in considering an execution.
No factors mitigate the enormity of a homicide, he said, the “issue of impossibility” violating a defendant’s Fifth Amendment rights of due process.
Corp responded that the statute is not that binding, that juries are allowed to vote against the death penalty even if they find aggravating factors outweigh the mitigating.
“And if the mitigating factors are equal to the aggravating factors, there is no death penalty,” she said.
Hyde took the arguments under advisement, saying he would issue a written decision in the future.
Prosecutors have an Aug. 30 deadline for responding to the July 31 defense motions under the briefing schedule adopted by Hyde on Wednesday, which includes a Sept. 18 date for likely oral arguments.