OGDEN -- The question will be answered any day now as to whether the 2nd District Courthouse here will feature the spectacle of a murder trial with the killer's grisly confession in sworn, open-court testimony.
Doug Lovell was sentenced to die at his 1993 sentencing hearing after he described his 1985 strangling of Joyce Yost, 39, of South Ogden, in graphic detail. After decades of appeals, his case is set for trial in February. Three years ago, the Utah Supreme Court allowed him to withdraw his guilty plea on legal technicalities.
Now a judge is set to rule on a motion to suppress those 1993 admissions from the witness stand, as well as more made in 2005, again from the witness stand.
After a hearing Monday on other motions regarding expert witness fees for Lovell's coming trial, his lead public defender, Mike Bouwhuis, didn't want to measure the damage if the confessions stay in.
"Obviously it affects our strategy at trial," is as close as Bouwhuis came to tipping his hand.
If Judge Michael Lyon denies the suppression motion, Bouwhuis said he would appeal that decision to the Utah Supreme Court, called an "interlocutory" or pretrial appeal.
After Mondays' hearing, Lyon, speaking through his court clerk, said he hopes to have the ruling on the suppression motion out, in writing, by Wednesday at the latest.
There is no Utah case law and little elsewhere addressing Lovell's unusual situation of his sentencing preceding his trial by 21 years, according to the suppression motion filed in March.
Lovell's admissions, according to the defense, were made in attempt to gain leniency and avoid receiving the death penalty. Which, reads the motion, "creates an inherent coercion."
The motion claims Lovell's Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination are at stake because his admissions did not amount to a "knowing and voluntary" waiver of those upon reversal during appeal.
The prosecution response to the motion 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 by Chief Deputy Weber County Attorney Gary Heward.
"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."
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 Yost's murder until 1992.