OGDEN — Testimony by a former attorney for a man on Utah’s death row, continued throughout the day Tuesday in an Ogden courtroom.
The testimony included the attorney’s experiences with counsel representing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during Lovell’s 2015 trial and the church’s alleged meddling in the case.
The 23B hearings regarding the appeal case for Lovell, a 61-year-old man twice convicted of capital murder and twice given a death sentence, continued as scheduled and again featured one of Lovell’s former attorneys, Sean Young.
Young testified that he and his then co-counsel, Michael Bouwhuis, were contacted by attorneys for the church during the second week of the 2015 trial. The attorneys, employed at the Salt Lake City legal firm Kirton McCronkie and representing the LDS Church at time, told the defense counsel they wanted to cut down the number of Lovell’s former prison bishops testifying on his behalf from five to three, according to Young.
Young went on to say that the attorneys told the defense that if the number of church leaders testifying was not reduced, they would file motions to quash any subpoenas and seek to have no church leaders take the stand.
According to Young, he and Bouwhuis were in the midst of the trial and overwhelmed with the workload, so they went along with the suggestion by the Kirton McCronkie attorneys. Young said the church attorneys later asked him and Bouwhuis to avoid asking church leaders about certain topics, however Young did not elaborate during the Tuesday hearing as to what topics were discussed.
Young went on to say that after a former prison bishop testified in the 2015 trial, the Kirton McCronkie attorneys were “upset” with the cross examination by state prosecutors.
The Tuesday testimony was similar to what Bouwhuis told the court earlier this month regarding the attorneys representing the former prison bishops, and their request to limit the number of those set to testify.
“They appeared to be trying to manhandle us, saying you can’t call these people,” Bouwhuis said on Aug. 6.
These allegations of alleged witness tampering are not new, as the question of whether or not the LDS Church meddled in some way has been a point of discussion in previous hearings regarding Lovell’s case.
In a July 29 motion, attorneys representing the Church called the allegations made by Lovell’s current defense counsel and any connections to possible witness tampering were untrue.
“Lovell’s mischaracterizations and accusations are baseless and offensive,” wrote one of two attorneys representing the Church in Lovell’s case.
Young’s actions during the 2015 jury trial are one of the main points of investigation for the ongoing series of hearings. Young testified Tuesday that his performance during the Lovell trial was one of the main reasons his public defender contract with Weber County was terminated in the years following the trial.
In October 2018, Young had his license to practice law in Utah suspended for three years after it was found that he mishandled a number of cases, including Lovell’s 2015 trial.
When he testified Monday, Young said that he signed an agreement with the Utah State Bar outlining his reported misconduct as an attorney, despite the fact that he says the agreement had numerous inaccuracies. At the time, Young’s brother, also a Utah attorney, advised him not to sign the agreement unless the inaccuracies were corrected.
At one point, Young asked the Utah State Bar to continue his attorney discipline case until after Lovell’s 23B hearings, which at its core would determine whether Young performed deficiently in the 2015 trial. The state bar refused, and Young said he later signed the supposedly inaccurate agreement despite being aware of the faults in the agreement, adding he signed the document to “make the complaints go away.”
The agreement ultimately led to his three-year suspension, instead of his total disbarment, Young said.
Young is expected to continue to testify Wednesday morning in Ogden’s 2nd District Court. The 23B hearings are slated to continue throughout the month of August, and they are scheduled to conclude on Friday, Aug. 30.