OGDEN (AP) — A Utah death-row inmate is heading back to court to determine if he had ineffective legal counsel and if The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meddled in his 2015 trial.
Douglas Lovell, 61, will be back in an Ogden courtroom starting Monday over questions about the trial that resulted in his second death sentence, the Standard-Examiner reported .
Lovell killed Joyce Yost in 1985 to prevent her from testifying after he had been charged with raping her, according to court documents. Authorities said he tried to hire two other people to kill Yost before deciding to carry out the murder himself.
He pleaded guilty in 1993, agreeing to show authorities the location of Yost’s body. The body was never found, leading to Lovell being sentenced to death.
Lovell then sought to withdraw his guilty plea, and the Utah Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that he could do so.
The case went to trial, and a jury convicted Lovell. He was sentenced to death again.
The Utah Supreme Court in 2017 heard the case again and sent it back to a district court to address if Lovell’s attorneys did their jobs properly and if the church asked ecclesiastical leaders to not testify.
Lovell says one of his former attorneys failed to properly prepare witnesses for trial. The attorney was assigned to contact 18 witnesses to testify, but a complaint claims he only contacted two.
A former prison bishop, John “Jack” Newton, said during a hearing earlier this month that church leadership suggested it would be preferable if he did not testify on behalf of Lovell at the 2015 trial. Newton worked with Lovell at the Utah State Prison.