The Utah Supreme Court has denied a petition to review the case of convicted murderer Joseph Mitchell Parsons, who says he received ineffective representation from a court-appointed lawyer.
In a ruling issued Wednesday, the court turned aside all Parsons' claims of ineffective counsel at trial and on direct appeal and denied payment to his new lawyers.Parsons was hitchhiking near Barstow, Calif., in August 1987 when Richard L. Ernest offered him a ride to Denver.
Parsons said that when the two men stopped to sleep at a rest area near Cedar City, Ernest made two sexual advances. Parsons stabbed Ernest in the chest several times with a five-inch double-edged knife.
After killing Ernest, Parsons dumped the body onto the shoulder of I-15 about a mile from the rest area. He then drove to a convenience store in Beaver, where he changed his clothes, cleaned out the car and threw away Ernest's personal belongings before using the victim's credit card to buy gas and food.
Parsons again used Ernest's credit card in Richfield to rent a motel room. He was arrested Aug. 31, 1987, while sleeping in the car near Salina. Police found Ernest's body the next day.
A preliminary hearing began on Sept. 17, 1987, in 5th District Court. Parsons' attorney, James Shumate, asked to waive the hearing, but the prosecutor refused, the ruling states.
During the hearing, Parsons grew agitated. A prosecutor testified that Parsons stood in open court and said, "I did it, they know I did it. Why are we going through all this? I want to stop this now. I don't care what you have to do. Stop it."
The proceedings stopped, and the next day, Parsons pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, aggravated robbery and auto theft.
The sentencing jury condemned him to die.Comment on this story
In March 1990, Parsons filed a pro se petition for review in 3rd District Court. About seven months later, his new attorneys, Gregory Sanders, Ronald Yengich and Kirk Gibbs, filed an amended petition alleging ineffective counsel at trial and on direct appeal.
That claim was denied. Parsons appealed to the Utah Supreme Court in a petition for a writ of habeas corpus.
The high court's ruling Wednesday turned aside each of eight claims of ineffective counsel Parsons brought in his petition for review.
The justices also denied payment to the attorneys, citing U.S. Supreme Court findings that indigent defendants are not entitled to public support in post-conviction court proceedings.