Once prosecutors named him as their prime suspect in the rape and slaying of an 11-year-old girl, John Albert Taylor said he knew he was going to die.
"I knew as soon as I was charged that I would be found guilty and receive the death penalty," he said in a letter written a couple of years ago."Even if I had F. Lee Bailey defending me, I was through."
Taylor continued to maintain his innocence until his death early Friday but said he always knew no one would believe him.
"I remember telling my father that whoever they arrested for this crime was history, and that was before my arrest," he said. "There is no sense in crying over spilled milk. What's done is done."
Taylor said he gave up his legal battles and agreed to let state officials carry out his death sentence because of his declining health and because of disappointment over the loss of two appeals.
The 36-year-old man could have died by lethal injection, but instead he chose the firing squad. In a letter dated Jan. 21, 1992, Taylor outlined his reasons for choosing the firing squad:
"To be strapped to a table and injected full of drugs leaves me with a feeling of helplessness.
"Because I'm innocent of the crime for which I was convicted of (and) if my execution is carried out, it will be murder. Granted, it may be legally sanctioned, but nonetheless murder it will be and the firing squad is my way of showing that point, and, because of the cost and inconvenience it will cause the state because they are not really prepared for an execution by firing squad."
In December 1989, Taylor was convicted of the June 23, 1989, sexual assault and strangulation death of 11-year-old Charla Nicole King. The girl's body was found by her mother in their Washington Terrace apartment. She had been strangled with a telephone cord.
Taylor had continually maintained that he was alone in the apartment that day to commit a burglary. His fingerprints were found on the telephone.
He was never optimistic about winning his appeals. The Utah Supreme Court in 1992 upheld both his conviction and sentence. Then in October 1995, the high court ruled against his argument that he had ineffective counsel.
That's when he decided to fire his attorney, Ed Brass, and drop his appeals. Taylor said he was ready to die partly because he was discouraged with the courts and his failing health problems.
During a phone interview in December, Taylor said he had an enlarged heart, bleeding ulcers and swollen legs and feet. He said he was afraid his heart would give out on him while in prison.
"I don't want to die alone in my cell," he said. "Even though physically I'm starting to fall apart, mentally and emotionally, I'm still hanging in there."
The soft-spoken man, who speaks with a hint of a Southern accent, wrote in a June 19, 1991, letter: "I wish the Supreme Court would go ahead and make its decision and get it over with. If they decide against my appeal, which I believe they will, then it will end there.
"I decided when I first got to prison that I was only going to go with the mandatory appeal," Taylor continued.
"Even though I maintain my innocence, the death penalty would be more humane in my case. Even if they were to give me a life sentence, I would never again walk on the outside because unless I admit to this crime and show remorse, the Board of Pardons would never grant me a parole date. I'll never admit to something I had nothing to do with."
But after the court turned down his appeal in 1992, Taylor got a new attorney and decided to go one more round with another appeal. Taylor said he spent the last six years in prison trying to fight the boredom. He said he spent 23 hours a day in his cell drawing, writing poetry, studying the law, researching his case, doing crossword puzzles, playing solitaire, doing jigsaw puzzles, writing letters, exercising, watching TV and listening to the radio.
"I have claustrophobia so I try to stay as busy as I can, because if not, I'd end up crazy," he said.
In a letter written in 1995, Taylor was discouraged by what was happening with his appeal.
"As for my case, well my appeal for petition for writ of habeas corpus has been filed with the Utah Supreme Court, so now it's hurry up and wait time, again. From time to time, I still get hit with the feeling of hopelessness and I have to fight the urge to throw in the towel."
Taylor was reared in Florida, where he was in and out of trouble with the law most of his life. He said he was abused as a child and he got involved heavily in drugs during his teenage years. He said he never got along with his mother or stepfather.
"She (his mother) was a very controlling and domineering woman," said Taylor in a Jan. 6 telephone conversation. "But she could never control me. My mother had a lot of animosity toward my father. They (mother and stepfather) alienated me for a long time. I was the whipping post.
"My stepfather believed that to spare the rod was to spoil the child, and believe me, my stepfather never spared the rod where I was concerned," he said.
Taylor said the physical abuse ended one day when he was 13 years old. He said he and a girlfriend were at his house when his stepfather got mad about something and hit him. He said his girlfriend got upset and left, so he got a knife and stabbed his stepfather. "That's the last time my stepfather ever hit me."
As a young boy, Taylor said he had dreams of becoming a truck driver. At the Utah State Prison, he eventually earned his high school diploma and he wanted to continue his education to become a paralegal, but the grant money ran out.
In a letter written in October 1991, Taylor wrote that he got into trouble with the adult courts when he was arrested in Florida in 1977 for carrying a concealed weapon. He was later charged with burglary because he broke into a house to steal the gun. He said he got three years in prison. In December 1981 he was released from prison, but he was arrested again three months later for armed robbery, armed burglary and sexual battery.
A month later, he said, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for a parole violation. Then in September 1982, he said he went to trial on the three charges and he was found not guilty by a jury. After being released from prison in 1989, Taylor moved to Utah to be with his natural father and his sisters.
Taylor said he was living with a sister near downtown Ogden when he decided to visit another sister living in Washington Terrace. It was then when the murder was committed and his sister turned him in to the police.Comment on this story
Taylor was arrested and charged with capital murder. His father, Albert Taylor, attended the trial but a short time after Taylor's conviction and death sentence, his father died. Even though Taylor only knew his father for six months, Taylor said he felt good about his dad.
"From what I saw about him (father) he was a decent man, he loved his family, he would listen to his children and help them when he could," Taylor wrote in a March 7, 1992, letter.
Taylor said he had no animosity toward the judge or the attorneys who prosecuted him. He said they were just doing their jobs.