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New trial slated for 2014 for former death row inmate allowed to withdraw plea

Published: Thursday, Aug. 9 2012 5:19 p.m. MDT

OGDEN — Former death row inmate Douglas Lovell, who was given the opportunity to withdraw his guilty plea, has a new trial date set for 2014.

Lovell, 54, pleaded guilty in 1993 to aggravated murder, a first-degree felony, in the death of Joyce Yost. Lovell was accused of killing Yost in 1985 before she could testify against him in a kidnapping and rape trial.

Lovell admitted in a prison conversation with his ex-wife, who was wearing a recording device for law enforcement officials, to kidnapping and raping Yost and later killing her to prevent her from testifying against him. Lovell has said he left her body in a mountainous area east of Ogden.

At the advice of his lawyer at the time, the late John Caine, who was a veteran of many capital murder cases, Lovell pleaded guilty and let 2nd District Judge Stanton Taylor decide his fate, rather than a jury.

The prosecutor at the time had worked out a plea bargain in which the death penalty would be taken off the table if Lovell would help police find Yost's remains so her family could hold a funeral and gain some closure, but despite repeated visits to the area he had described, her body was never recovered.

The judge sentenced Lovell to die. Caine testified at a 2005 evidentiary hearing that, contrary to Lovell's contention, he never promised Lovell that the judge wouldn't impose the death penalty.

Lovell took his case to the Utah Supreme Court in 2009 and said his constitutional rights were violated because the court didn't inform him of all of his rights at the time he entered the guilty plea. The high court agreed in a 2010 ruling, determining the plea could be withdrawn and sending the case back to district court.

Second District Judge Michael Lyon scheduled a new trial for Lovell to begin Feb. 3, 2014. It is set to run through Feb. 26.

Emiley Morgan

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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