Ruling: Lovell’s murder confession admissible in new trial

May 23 2013 - 12:09am

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Doug Lovell
Doug Lovell

OGDEN -- Doug Lovell's detailed descriptions of the murder for which he was once sentenced to death will be part of his coming trial on the murder, a judge has ruled.

Lovell was sentenced to die at his 1993 sentencing hearing after he took the stand to detail his 1985 strangling of Joyce Yost, 39, of South Ogden.

Three years ago the Utah Supreme Court, after decades of appeals, ruled that because of technical violations he could withdraw his guilty plea to capital homicide.

Wednesday's decision by Judge Michael Lyon to deny a defense bid to declare inadmissible that 1993 sworn, open-court confession, as well as similar admissions from the stand in 2005, is likely the last obstacle to Lovell's trial set for February.

The defense motion claimed Lovell's Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination suffered because the admissions from the stand did not amount to a "knowing and voluntary" waiver of those rights upon reversal during appeal.

But Lyon in his 26-page ruling said essentially those rights do not kick in "when a defendant decides that he wished he had not told the truth at the earlier date."

No Utah case law and little elsewhere exists addressing Lovell's unusual situation of his sentencing preceding his trial by 21 years, according to the suppression motion filed in March.

Lovell's sworn admissions from the stand, according to the defense, were made in an attempt to gain leniency and avoid receiving the death penalty, which, reads the motion, "creates an inherent coercion."

But Lyon also rejected those arguments, saying, "Defendant made a choice to testify after consulting with his trial attorneys, presumably because he believed that he would gain some advantage in offering testimony to the court."

Lyon did rule for the defense in fine-line legal distinctions on the difference between Lovell's testimony, sworn and subject to cross-examination, versus his rights of "allocution," a non-sworn statement not subject to cross-examinations. The judge suppressed what he called Lovell's "allocution" in 1993 -- a 12-page letter Lovell read to the court, expressing remorse and apologizing while asking for mercy.

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 and sentenced to serve a 15-years-to-life prison term. He wasn't charged with Yost's murder until 1992.

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