OGDEN -- A judge has taken under advisement a defense motion to suppress former death row inmate Doug Lovell's sworn testimony as to how and why he killed a South Ogden woman in 1985.
Lovell was sentenced to die at his 1993 sentencing hearing after he detailed strangling Joyce Yost. Now his case is set for trial in February 2014, since a Utah Supreme Court ruling allowed him to withdraw his guilty plea to the killing. In July 2010 the high court ruled that Lovell was not explicitly told out loud in open court when he pleaded guilty in 1993 that he had a right to a public trial before an impartial jury.
After brief oral arguments on the suppression bid Friday morning, Ogden 2nd District Judge Michael Lyon said he would issue a written decision at a future date.
The suppression motion claims Lovell's Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination are at stake because his 1993 admissions did not amount to a "knowing and voluntary" waiver of those Fifth Amendment rights upon reversal during appeal.
But Deputy Weber County Attorney Gary Heward argues that Lovell did not have to take the stand and describe the killing as he did, but did so voluntarily.
Heward's reply motion quotes the transcript from Lovell's June 28, 1993, hearing where he pleaded guilty, saying he wanted to "come clean" and get the case behind him. "I've pretty much wanted to do exactly this for a long time," Lovell said at the time.
Heward's motion also notes that Lovell at his Aug. 3, 1993, sentencing hearing "voluntarily elected to be placed under oath, voluntarily subjecting himself to direct questioning and cross-examination."
That, according to the motion, was instead of the opportunity for "allocution" as it is called, where a defendant, without being sworn and subject to questioning, can make a statement to the court at sentencing.
Instead, Lovell took the stand and went into extensive detail on the killing, even noting he returned to where he hid Yost's body in Ogden Canyon to remove jewelry from the decomposing body and pawn it.
There is no Utah case law and very little case law elsewhere addressing Lovell's unusual situation of his sentencing preceding a trial by 21 years, reads the suppression motion filed by Lovell's public defenders in March.
Lovell's admissions, according to the defense, were made as part of an attempt to gain leniency and avoid receiving the death penalty. Which, reads the motion, "creates an inherent coercion."
The prosecution response motion also notes that 1993 is not the only time Lovell has taken the stand to make a sworn confession.
He did so again at a Nov. 14, 2005, hearing in Ogden before Judge Lyon pursuant to one of the many appeals tracks in the case, states the motion.
"At this hearing he again confessed, stating that he had told his family and at least 31 other prisoners that he 'did in fact do this.' ... He again testified to having earlier repeatedly raped and sodomized the victim, to having contracted on at least two separate times to have her killed, and to his decision to and ultimate fulfillment of his desire to kill her."
Lovell paid two different ex-con friends roughly $400 apiece at different times to kill Yost, said the motion, but neither followed through.
In Lovell's 1993 plea bargain, prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty if Lovell could lead investigators to Yost's remains in Ogden Canyon. When a five-week search led by a handcuffed Lovell failed to find anything, the Weber County Attorney's Office asked for and received the death penalty.
As he has testified, Lovell killed Yost to prevent her from testifying to his rape of her that same year. He was still convicted of the rape, currently serving a 15-years-to-life prison term. He wasn't charged with her murder until 1992.