OGDEN — A former attorney for man on Utah’s death row was called to the stand Monday in an ongoing effort to see if he provided ineffective counsel during a 2015 jury trial.
Monday marked the beginning of the third week of hearings regarding the case of Douglas Lovell, a 61-year-old man twice convicted of capital murder and twice sentenced to death.
On the stand to start the day was Sean Young, one of two attorneys who represented Lovell during his most recent trial, which took place in 2015. The trial ultimately led to Lovell’s second conviction of aggravated murder and his second death sentence.
Lovell was first arrested in 1985 after the murder of South Ogden woman Joyce Yost. Lovell had previously been charged with raping Yost, and he killed her to prevent her from testifying in court, according to court documents.
For much of Monday, Young talked about his experience with witnesses in the case and files that have accumulated over the decades Lovell’s case has been active in the court system, including his interactions with other attorneys and Young’s staff.
Young’s actions during the trial are the main point of scrutiny for the weeks-long hearings, dubbed 23B hearings and are taking place under Rule 23B in the Utah Rules Of Appellate Procedure.
For the 2015 trial, Young was assigned to contact 18 witnesses to testify. He assured his co-counsel that he was doing his work, but said many of them were being uncooperative. According to complaints filed against Young, he only contacted two witnesses.
In October 2018, Young had his license to practice law in Utah suspended for three years after it was discovered that he mishandled a number of cases, including Lovell’s 2015 trial.
Young was one of two attorneys who represented Lovell during the 2015 trial. The other attorney, Michael Bouwhuis, testified earlier in the month and is said to be testifying again in the coming days.
On Monday, it was Young’s turn to take the stand.
A point of contention between Young and Colleen Coeburgh, Lovell’s current attorney, has been regarding a number of documents that she alleged Young turned over to the state, but not to her. Young explained that at one point after the 2015 trial, he met with members of the Attorney General’s Office, who extracted over 1,400 documents from his computer. When he met with Coeburgh, she said she received over 200 documents.
Coeburgh continued, and asked why they had only been able to get a fraction of the documents when they meet at a Salt Lake City courthouse, instead of the same number of documents he had turned over to the Attorney General’s Office.
Young responded, “because you are very rude and difficult to communicate with.”
He went on to allege that Coeburgh and her assistant would “harass” him whenever he would appear with clients at the 2nd District Court in Farmington when he was still practicing law.
Later, audio recordings were played in open court that featured conversations between Young and one of Lovell’s former appellant attorneys, Samuel Newton. In the recordings, the two discuss Lovell’s case.
The first recording featured Young telling Newton about how witnesses for Lovell’s 2015 trial were being uncooperative, an allegation that would later surface as untrue in complaints about Young’s performance as defense counsel.
“So what you’re saying, for one reason or another, is that people were backing out?” Newton asked.
“Yeah,” Young replied.
In a second recording Young seemingly admits to being unprepared for the jury trial. “I didn’t prep sufficiently, I admit that,” Young is heard saying in the recording.
Young is expected to continue to testify Tuesday in Ogden’s 2nd District Court. He also said during the Monday hearing that he would be available to testify Wednesday if needed.
Lovell’s 23B hearings are scheduled to take place throughout the rest of the week, and the hearings are scheduled to end on Friday, Aug. 30, according to online court documents.