OGDEN -— In 2nd District Court Thursday, Weber County attorney Christopher Shaw told a judge that Miller Costello and Brenda Emile will require attorneys certified to handle death penalty cases.
Police responded to a 911 call on July 6 and found 3-year-old Angelina Costello dead. They observed that the girl appeared malnourished and had injuries consistent with prolonged abuse, according to the probable cause statement against her parents.
Costello, 25, and Emile, 22, are charged with aggravated murder in the death of their daughter. Aggravated murder is the only crime subject to the penalty of death under Utah law.
Costello and Emile appeared separately in court Thursday, and District Court Judge Michael DiReda informed them that he had spoken by phone with the attorneys who had expected to be retained to represent them individually. Because the funds that could be used to retain the attorneys are still tied up in the investigation, neither Costello nor Emile are presently represented.
Both Costello and Emile answered affirmatively when DiReda asked if they needed a public defender appointed in the interim. Weber County attorney Shaw advised the judge that a “Rule 8 certified” public defender would be necessary.
Rule 8 applies when the death penalty is a potential punishment for an indigent defendant. It sets forth qualifications for the complicated and expensive ordeal of defending a client in a death penalty case, requiring that the state provide for at least two attorneys with at least five years’ experience, who “can dedicate those resources to the representation of the defendant ... with undivided loyalty.”
Attorney Michael Bouwhuis is the coordinator of indigent defense services for Weber County. He said that he spoke with the county prosecutors Thursday, and they have not yet made a decision regarding the death penalty in Costello’s and Emile’s cases. The state is not required to declare its intention until after a preliminary hearing.
“We have to assume they are pursuing the death penalty, for the purposes of providing representation and protecting the rights of our clients,” Bouwhuis said.
A report on the status of the couple’s counsel is scheduled for Aug. 3. They are currently being held in the Weber County Jail without bond.
Reach reporter @NadiaPflaum at email@example.com or 801-625-4252.