Suspect in Kiplyn Davis murder wants a bench trial

Man charged waives right to a jury

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 9 2008 8:16 a.m. MST

PROVO — A man charged with killing Kiplyn Davis says he doesn't want a jury to hear his murder case — just the judge.

The attorney for Christopher Neal Jeppson recently filed a notice in 4th District Court stating his client waives his right to a jury trial.

"Mr. Jeppson agrees to a trial to the bench and understands that this Court will be the finder of fact and will render a verdict," Scott C. Williams wrote.

Jeppson and fellow Spanish Fork High School classmate Timmy Brent Olsen were charged with murder more than a decade after Davis didn't come home from school on May 2, 1995.

Her body has never been found, but prosecutors allege Olsen and Jeppson have each told several people they know where she is and even participated in her death and burial.

Both men were bound over to stand trial last January after an eight-day preliminary hearing, but their cases were severed in July after their attorneys argued that their individual clients would be negatively impacted by a joint trial.

Judge Lynn Davis also recently denied two separate motions to change venue — a decision that Williams said influenced his bench-trial notice.

"Given the ruling on the change of venue, we're concerned about the ability to have a jury that's uninfluenced," Williams said.

Prosecutor Sherry Ragan has maintained the county is big enough to seat an unbiased jury.

The Utah County Attorney's Office has not yet responded to Williams' notice and may simply bring its response to a hearing set for Wednesday.

"The judge has to agree, and we have to agree," Ragan said. "The default is a jury trial."

She said their office has talked with the investigating officers and will be talking to the Davis family.

Williams also has filed notice he plans to call prosecutor Richard Lambert as a witness for the defense.

Lambert is an assistant United States attorney and a deputized Utah County attorney who has worked extensively in the federal perjury trial of both men and been actively involved in the state's case.

In his motion, Williams alleges that Lambert "has stated to various individuals that it is his opinion, based upon his knowledge of the investigation and evidence, that Mr. Jeppson had knowledge of what happened to Kiplyn Davis and where her body might be located, but that Mr. Jeppson acquired such knowledge after Kiplyn's death, and that Mr. Jeppson was not a party to having caused Kiplyn's death," according to the notice.

Williams argues that if Lambert was called to testify the prosecutors would have to disqualify him from their team.

Ragan disagreed said she doesn't believe Lambert has said anything that would be relevant to the defense's case, although he has been actively involved and spoken at length about it.

E-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com

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