The Utah Supreme Court on Friday rejected a death row inmate’s claims that a trial judge erred by rejecting a request for funds to investigate whether Honie’s trial attorney adequately represented him in connection with the vicious beating and killing of his ex-girlfriend’s mother.
Taberon Dave Honie now 38, was sentenced to death in 1999 after a jury convicted him of one count of aggravated murder for killing Claudia Benn, 49, a Paiute substance abuse counselor, on July 9, 1998.
Benn was bitten, beaten, stabbed four times in the throat, sexually assaulted and mutilated. A neighbor called police after hearing what sounded like a gun shot but was likely glass breaking as Honie, who was intoxicated on alcohol and marijuana, smashed a patio door. Police arrived at the home as Honie walked outside, covered in blood.
According to court documents, he voluntarily told police, “I stabbed her. I killed her with a knife.”
Officers found three of Benn’s granddaughters, at least one of whom presumably witnessed the attack, inside the home. One child was covered in blood.
An attorney for Honie argued before the high court in September that having more complete information about Honie’s background could have been used to provide a better defense during his trial and, at sentencing, might have spared him the death penalty.
But the Utah Supreme Court found unanimously that Honie had failed to raise “a genuine issue if material fact as to his ineffective assistance of counsel,” and that a judge was correct in denying Honie additional funds to investigate the issue.
In previous appeals, Honie argued his conviction and sentence should be tossed because of a racially insensitive comment made by a prosecutor at trial, lack of proof Benn was alive when she was sexually assaulted — the aggravating factor that led to the capital murder charge — and that Utah’s death penalty is unconstitutional. Those appeals failed.