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Attorneys want Utah man's alleged murder confession barred

Published April 19, 2013 8:49 am

Courts • Douglas Lovell allegedly killed a woman in 1985 to prevent her testifying against him at his rape trial.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Attorneys for one-time death row inmate Douglas Lovell want to bar his admission in court to a 1985 murder from a new trial slated for next year.

After hearing arguments on Friday, 2nd District Judge Michael Lyon said he would issue a written ruling at a later date.

In 1993, Lovell voluntarily took the stand during his sentencing hearing and detailed how he sexually assaulted Joyce Yost and later murdered her to keep her from testifying at his rape trial, according to court documents.

Lovell — who pleaded guilty to aggravated murder — said he kidnapped the 39-year-old Ogden woman from her home, killed her and buried her body in the mountains east of Ogden.

Lovell, now 55, was sentenced to death, but the Utah Supreme Court in 2010 ruled he could withdraw the guilty plea because he should have been better informed of his rights during court proceedings.

In a motion filed last month, Lovell's attorneys argue that Lovell's damning testimony should not be allowed at his new murder trial because it violates his right against self-incrimination. The lawyers argue that Lovell's statements in 1993 were made in an attempt for leniency with the judge and to avoid the death penalty, and he did not voluntarily waive his right against self-incrimination.

However, Deputy Weber County Attorney Gary Heward argues in court papers that Lovell was never required to take the witness stand, be placed under oath and confess to the killing. He further argues that in voluntarily testifying, Lovell waived his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.

Heward argued that Lovell's testimony was not part of a plea deal with the state, but instead was Lovell's way of coming clean.

Lovell's deal with prosecutors spared him the death penalty if he could lead authorities to Yost's grave. However, despite trips to the mountains to search for her body, Lovell was unable to locate the woman's remains prior to his sentencing date.

Lovell's new trial is scheduled for February 2014 — nearly 29 years after Yost's murder.

Meanwhile, Lovell is serving up to life in prison for raping Yost, whose preliminary hearing testimony was used to convict Lovell in 1985. He was charged with her murder in 1992.

jmiller@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jm_miller