An evidentiary hearing has been postponed until Sept. 15 to determine whether convicted murderer George Wesley Hamilton should receive another trial.
The hearing originally was set for July 19, but was changed during a pre-hearing conference Monday because of scheduling conflicts and additional time needed by attorneys to prepare memoranda. The hearing was held before 4th District Judge George E. Ballif, who presided over Hamilton's trial.Hamilton, convicted last August in the Aug. 1, 1985, mutilation murder of 19-year-old Sharon Sant of Fillmore, is serving five years to life in the Utah State Prison. His trial was moved from Millard County to Utah County following a change of venue request by defense attorneys.
The Utah Supreme Court last month ordered Ballif to determine whether Hamilton deserves a new trial because of alleged jury misconduct.
Millard County Attorney Warren Peterson refused to comment on Hamilton's chances of getting another trial, but he and Assistant Utah Attorney General John Soltis said they will do what they can to keep Hamilton in prison. Peterson and Soltis will repeat as prosecutors if the case is retried.
Hamilton, 44, was represented Monday by Salt Lake attorney Ronald Yengich.
In March, Ballif quashed a motion for a new trial on grounds that the Supreme Court had jurisdiction over the case because that is where Hamilton had filed an appeal of his conviction. The Supreme Court, however, ordered 4th District Court to hold a hearing once the Utah attorney general's office agreed to a defense motion for the hearing.
Motions for a new trial followed allegations in December that a juror brought a newspaper clipping about the trial into the jury room. The clipping, however, reportedly was not shown to other jurors. During Hamilton's trial, Ballif repeatedly warned jurors not to read newspaper stories or watch television reports about the trial.
Millard County officials say they hope Hamilton is not granted a new trial, but they are preparing for a second trial nevertheless. Millard County spent about $200,000 on Hamilton's trial, $105,000 of which went for his defense.
Cost of a new trial would be less, however, because evidence gathered and detective work needed for the first trial would not have to be duplicated for a second trial, said Millard County Deputy Attorney Dexter Anderson.
Sant, a Southern Utah State College student, disappeared while hitchhiking from Cedar City to Fillmore. Her mutilated torso was found about two weeks later in a shallow grave near the Cove Fort exit along I-15.