SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Supreme Court on Friday rejected appeals by convicted killer Floyd Eugene Maestas, who argued he shouldn't be executed for the 2004 stabbing and stomping death of an elderly woman attacked in her Salt Lake home.
Maestas was convicted by a jury in 2008 in the aggravated murder of Donna Bott, 75, and the aggravated burglary of the home of Virginia Chamberlain, 87.
After a penalty phase of the trial, he was sentenced to die by lethal injection. His attorneys appealed on a number of grounds, including challenges about jury selection, the admissibility of DNA evidence and the assertion that Maestas' own mental deficiencies made him ineligible for the death penalty. His defense team also raised the arguments that "cumulative" errors throughout the proceedings rose to a level that created an "unfair and unreliable outcome."
Utah Supreme Court Justices unanimously shot down the bevy of legal challenges to Maestas' conviction in a point-by-point answer to the claims.
"We reject each of Mr. Maestas' challenges to his convictions for aggravated robbery and aggravated murder and to his sentence under Utah's death penalty scheme," the decision states.
In a review of the case, the justices said they found no evidence of a "substantial error" in Maestas' prosecution and conviction.
"Because Mr. Maestas was not harmed by any substantial errors over the course of the proceedings, our confidence in the fairness of his guilty verdict and his sentence of death is not undermined."
The penalty phase of Maestas' trial took an abrupt and bizarre turn when he refused to let his attorneys put on mitigating evidence about his childhood, saying he didn't want to drag his family into an embarrassing public spotlight.
In the appeal of the conviction and sentence, however, attorneys argued that Maestas should never have been able to make that decision on his own and the courts were legally bound to defer to Maestas' defense team over an issue so critical.
The high court disagreed, however, and said counsel is just that — counsel — and Maestas retained the right to control the direction of his own case.
"I do think this case was well reasoned and well decided," said assistant Utah attorney general Karen Klucznik. "It was a case that addressed pretty much all of the issues the defendant raised," she added, pointing out there were 40 issues raised on the appeal.
Maestas was 52 when he and two other men broke into Bott's Glendale home intent on stealing property to sell for liquor. Bott was strangled and stabbed and prosecutors say Maestas stomped on her so hard it tore her aorta.
Another woman was attacked in her house, but survived. The two other men, who did not participate in the attack, were sentenced to prison on property crimes.
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