Utah death-row inmate’s appeal remains ongoing
OGDEN, Utah (AP) — Court hearings for a death-row inmate appealing based on his contention that he had ineffective counsel and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meddled in his trial are taking longer than expected.
The hearings for Douglas Lovell’s appeal were expected to be wrapped up by August, but additional days have been scheduled for late October and early November, the Standard-Examiner newspaper in Ogden reported Sunday.
Lovell, 61, has twice been convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death for the 1985 killing of Joyce Yost. Lovell killed Yost in 1985 to prevent her from testifying after he had been charged with raping her, according to court documents.
Lovell’s attorneys have accused The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of stopping a bishop from the faith who counseled Lovell in prison from testifying as a character witness.
A former prison bishop, John “Jack” Newton, said during a hearing earlier this year 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 state prison.
Court records reveal his former attorney, Michael Bouwhuis, testified last month that church lawyers asked him to call fewer church members to testify in Lovell’s 2015 trial.
Church officials didn’t immediately respond for comment Monday. But they have said previously that local leaders usually don’t participate in legal proceedings, and defense attorneys agreed to any limitations on members’ testimony.
Lovell 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.
The Utah Supreme Court in 2011 allowed Lovell to withdraw his guilty plea. He was then convicted at trial and again sentenced to death.
The state Supreme Court in 2017 heard the case again and sent it back to a district court to determine if Lovell’s attorneys did their jobs properly and if the church asked ecclesiastical leaders to not testify.