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Judge allows murder suspect to fire his court-appointed attorneys

By Mark Shenefelt - | May 3, 2022

MARK SHENEFELT, Standard-Examiner

The 2nd District courthouse in Farmington is pictured Nov. 1, 2021.

FARMINGTON — The remaining defendant in a 2018 Layton drug robbery and fatal shooting has won a battle to fire his court-appointed attorneys and now awaits the selection of a new public defender.

Angel Christopher Abreu, 26, of Ogden, is described in charging documents as the man who pulled the trigger in the rifle shooting of Anthony Child, 26, in a Layton mobile home where drug users were congregating. Two other suspects agreed to plea bargains and were sentenced on lesser charges, leaving Abreu to face trial on a charge of first-degree felony aggravated murder.

Abreu had been scheduled to go on trial this month. But he filed a 46-page mostly handwritten motion in March demanding that his attorneys be dropped. He alleged incompetence, ineffective counsel and lack of communication.

Second District Judge David Connors heard arguments on the issue and ruled on April 8 that he would allow Abreu’s request. The judge said he found no evidence that the attorneys were incompetent or ineffective. But he said that according to court precedence on the issue, “substitution of counsel may also be necessary when the defendant’s relationship with his or her appointed attorney has deteriorated to the point that sound discretion requires substitution.”

Connors also is exercising discretion regarding the certification level of an attorney to be appointed now to represent Abreu. When the previous attorneys were appointed, Abreu was facing a potential death penalty upon conviction, so attorneys with capital case qualifications were appointed. They were drawn from a roster of experienced attorneys endorsed by the Utah Indigent Defense Fund.

The Davis County Attorney’s Office eventually declined to seek the death penalty against Abreu, meaning capital attorneys would not be required for Abreu now and a county public defender could be assigned, County Attorney Troy Rawlings said Tuesday.

But Connors decided otherwise, and he has contacted the Defense Fund regarding the selection of a new attorney. No new trial date has been set.

If Abreu is convicted on the aggravated murder charge, he could be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison or life without the possibility of parole.

According to charging documents, one of Abreu’s co-defendants duct-taped people in the drug house during the robbery while another co-defendant waited outside. Abreu allegedly shot Child, who had friends drive him to Idaho, where he died at a hospital.

In an email divulged by Abreu in his March court filing, a deputy county attorney wrote to the previous defenders that Abreu had improper contact with a co-defendant in the Davis County Jail and “has been a troublemaker at the jail, including being the intended recipient of a methamphetamine shipment, which was intercepted by deputies.”

Last September, Abreu sued the county in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City, alleging police brutality, withheld medical care and infringed religious freedom in the jail.

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