OGDEN -- The first trial under a new law that guides how inmates can sue the state for wrongful imprisonment reconvened briefly Monday in 2nd District Court.
The whodunit in the 1993 fatal shooting of Lael Brown continued with two men testifying they saw Brown alive hours after the official time of death, sipping coffee in a cafe.
Debra Brown, 53, has been behind bars since her 1995 jury conviction in Logan for the shooting death of her employer, Lael Brown, no relation.
Her innocence trial began Jan. 17 in 2nd District Court in Ogden and took five days, just as long as the trial in Logan that convicted her.
Her case is the first to go this far under Utah's fledgling Factual Innocence statute, which sets the standards by which an inmate can sue the state for wrongful incarceration.
The case was moved to Ogden after Logan judges recused themselves.
Lael Brown was shot three times in the head at point-blank range as he slept, according to testimony. It was Debra Brown who reported the shooting police say she planned to cover her theft of $3,500 from him.
In a rare move, a month ago, 2nd District Judge Michael DiReda asked for more evidence in the trial that had ended Jan. 24. DiReda has been deliberating ever since.
After Monday's hearing, he declined to give a time frame on when he'd decide whether to release Brown.
"I'm further down the road, but I'm not there yet," he said from the bench. "I will alert you once a decision is made."
"It's rare, but not unheard of," Jensie Anderson, director of the Rocky Mountain Innocence Center, said of a trial judge asking for more evidence.
The center has been researching Brown's case for eight years and seeks her release from prison.
Since the trial ended, DiReda -- in telephone conference calls with the innocence center and the Utah Attorney General's Office, which is defending the lawsuit -- asked for more evidence concerning the time of death.
The attorneys agreed upon calling to the stand two men listed in police reports as saying they saw Brown alive later in the day Nov. 6, 1993. They did not testify in January or the 1995 trial.
Prosecutors in 1995 convicted Brown on evidence the killing came sometime between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. that Saturday, Nov. 6, 1993.
Those are also the only hours Brown has no alibi for that weekend.
But Delwin Hall and Terry Carlsen testified last Tuesday that they saw their friend Lael Brown at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., respectively, that day at their favorite hangout for coffee, Angie's restaurant in Logan.
Assistant Attorneys General Scott Reed and Pat Nolan countered that five waitresses at Angie's told police in 1993 that Brown was a regular, but was absent that Saturday.
Alan Sullivan, the lead counsel on the pro bono legal team assisting the innocence center, argued that only one of the waitresses said Brown was a no-show. The rest were less sure, saying they didn't think he was there, or couldn't remember, he said.