A Utah prison inmate is seeking to reverse his 12-year-old guilty plea to first-degree murder charges.
James Earl Blair appeared in 4th District Court in Fillmore for an evidentiary hearing, seeking to withdraw his guilty plea in the murder of Robyn LeRoy Halsey, 30, of Scipio, Millard County, March 20, 1978. The body was found near U.S. 50, south of Scipio. The victim had been killed with his own shotgun.Blair is now claiming William Lloyd Eastwood, Belknap, Ill., fired the fatal shotgun blast.
The inmate says he should be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea because of misconduct by the prosecution, ineffective legal assistance and that the plea wasn't entered knowingly and voluntarily.
Blair, of Kansas City, Kan., was hitchhiking with Eastwood when they were given a ride by Halsey. He pleaded guilty to first-degree murder to avoid a possible death penalty and was sentenced five years to life in prison on Jan. 4, 1979.
Blair said he and Eastwood agreed that he would plead guilty to the killing and that Eastwood would then sue for false arrest, splitting the money they would receive after Blair got out of prison. The apparent plan backfired, however, when the two were separated in court proceedings.
Eastwood pleaded guilty to second-degree murder through negotiations and testified against Blair in a preliminary hearing. After serving some time in Utah, he was transferred to Nevada where that state agreed to house him. He is still incarcerated there.
Blair was 21 at the time of the murder and Eastwood was 23.
Judge Ray M. Harding ordered attorneys to file briefs and took the matter under advisement.