The Utah Supreme Court has upheld the conviction of Charles Kenneth McCovey in the 1988 killing of a pregnant woman during the robbery of a Kearns video store.
Justices ruled 3-2 in an opinion released Wednesday to affirm the judgment and sentence handed down in 3rd District Court, rejecting McCovey's claim that two consecutive life sentences was excessive.In April 1988, McCovey robbed a Kearns video store, shooting and killing a customer, Anna Holmes. McCovey maintained throughout his trial that the shooting was an accident.
Although charged by the state with first-degree murder, a capital offense punishable by death, and aggravated robbery, McCovey was found guilty of second-degree, or felony, murder as well as aggravated robbery.
McCovey had sought to merge the two convictions at his sentencing hearing in March 1989, but the motion was denied and he was sentenced to two consecutive terms of five years to life.
In his appeal, McCovey claimed aggravated robbery is a lesser included offense of second-degree felony murder, making the sentence for aggravated robbery a violation of the double jeopardy clause of the U.S. Constitution.
A majority of justices disagreed. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Gordon R. Hall stated that the Legislature "did not intend the multiple crimes of felony murder to be punished as a single crime. . . . To conclude otherwise would be to defeat the deterrent purpose of the felony murder statute and result in unjust consequences."
Associate Chief Justice Richard C. Howe and Justice I. Daniel Stewart concurred with Hall's opinion, but Justices Christine M. Durham and Michael D. Zimmerman disagreed with Hall's interpretation of legislative intent.