Prosecution and defense attorneys in the resentencing of the man convicted of killing Provo Police Chief Swen Nielsen's aunt almost five years ago appeared before 4th District Judge Cullen Y. Christensen Monday to finalize questions to be asked of potential jurors.
Douglas Stewart Carter, 35, was found guilty of killing Eva Oleson, 57, in February 1985 and was sentenced to death by a 12-member jury. However, last year the Utah Supreme Court ruled that Carter should receive a new sentencing hearing because jurors were improperly instructed on Utah's death penalty.The court upheld the conviction but said the judge should have told the jury that a heinous or unusually cruel murder "must be demonstrated by physical torture, serious physical abuse or serious bodily injury of the victim before death."
Carter's new hearing has been delayed several times by defense motions - once by a competency evaluation and once by a motion to suppress a confession made by Carter after his arrest. The hearing is now being delayed while Christensen considers a change-of-venue motion and a motion to keep the first trial's transcripts away from new jurors.
Meanwhile, attorneys from both sides have been busy compiling questionnaires for potential jurors. Attorneys agreed on most questions but needed Christensen's help in determining the final wording of about 10 questions.
Deputy county attorney Jim Taylor said the term "blood atonement" should be left out of certain questions because of its confusing nature. He said the questions should simply ask jurors if they believe in the death penalty.
But defense attorney Craig Snyder said the term is important because it helps show whether a person believes in the death penalty because of his or her religious background.
"Some people might not be able to let go of that concept because of their religious belief," Snyder said.
Taylor also objected to questions that use the term "mark of Cain or curse of Cain." He said the questions should be reworded to simply ask the prospective jurors if they had any prejudice about Carter's race.
Snyder said the term would help him know if the religious beliefs of prospective jurors made them believe that some people were "born black because of something they had done prior to birth."
Christensen allowed the term "blood atonement" to be used but ruled that in some questions reference to Cain should be eliminated in favor of asking potential jurors if their feelings about blacks are "influenced by the religion they subscribe to."
Taylor said many questions are repetitive and irrelevant. But Christensen said he would rather have too many questions than too few.
"I don't want to have this case back again," Christensen said.