Steven Ray James created publicity over his son's disappearance by claiming the infant was kidnapped and appealing to the kidnappers to return his baby.
Now he's appealing to the Utah Supreme Court for a new trial because of that publicity.In his brief, James argues that even though his trial was moved from Logan to Salt Lake City in search of an impartial jury, he still didn't get a fair trial because his lawyers couldn't question prospective jurors about pre-trial publicity.
"The judge asked some questions, but he didn't allow us to ask any," said James' attorney, Robert W. Gutke. "That made the change of venue meaningless. We just didn't get a jury panel free from bias."
Publicity is one of three arguments James builds his appeal on. He also believes the state did not have enough evidence to convict him for the first-degree murder of his son.
The baby's body was so decayed at the time of autopsy that the medical examiner couldn't discover how the child died. At trial, the baby's mother testified that James seemed resentful and jealous of the baby. She cited several incidents of inept care by James that amounted to abuse and described suspicious marks on the baby. "But there is no direct evidence linking James to the death or showing how or why the baby died," Gutke said.
First-degree murder requires the killer to "knowingly and intentionally" take life. Gutke believes the state failed to prove that James had done that.
Gutke will argue for a lesser conviction of negligent homicide or manslaughter for James. But he hopes the court will completely reverse James' conviction based on insufficient evidence and set him free.
John Albert Taylor
John Albert Taylor doesn't believe he should die for fingerprints on a telephone.
Taylor is appealing his death sentence for the rape, sodomy and murder of Charla King in her home the day before her 12th birthday.
Only his fingerprints on the telephone in the bedroom where Charla was murdered place him at the scene of the crime, his appeal said. Second District Judge David E. Roth could not have been certain beyond a reasonable doubt that Taylor committed the murder based on evidence used in the trial, the brief said. (Taylor waived his right to a jury trial and was convicted by Roth.)
The state disagrees, citing evidence in its brief to support the conviction: Taylor was seen outside the King apartment shortly after the murder; he asked his sister to lie about when she returned home the day of the murder to provide him with an alibi for the time the murder took place and, just before his trial, Taylor told a jail inmate "he had killed a little girl by accident."
The state also argues that the fingerprints on the phone are consistent with prints that would be made by someone lifting the phone to cut the cord. King was strangled to death with the severed telephone cord.
Taylor said he left prints on the phone when he lifted it to steal money under it. Taylor originally told police he never entered the King apartment. But when confronted with the prints, Taylor changed his story, saying he burglarized the apartment but did not kill King.
Taylor also believes that evidence of his past sexual crimes - including the rape of his 12-year-old sister and the sexual assault of a 6-year-old neighbor girl - should not have been admitted during the penalty phase of his trial because he committed those crime when he was a juvenile.
The state argues that under Utah's death-sentencing statute, a defendant's past crimes can be admitted to reveal his character and history.
George Wesley Hamilton
Justice seldom bestows miracles on murderers, but she has handed a few to the men who tortured, raped and murdered Sharon Sant.
A botched immunity agreement set Robert Bott free after he admitted to raping Sant and helping George Wesley Hamilton cut up and bury her body.
Hamilton won his own shot at freedom when the Utah Supreme Court ordered a second trial for him after his 1986 conviction for second degree murder of Sant. The court found that the jury's decision was tainted by a newspaper article about the murder.
Hamilton's shot went wide of the mark. A second jury convicted him of the same crime.
Now he's trying again. Hamilton claims his conviction for the murder was based on circumstantial evidence. In his appeal, he argues that only his bloody fingerprint on a bottle of blood found near Sant's body connects him to the murder. Hamilton's fingerprints also appeared on beer cans found near the murder site.
But "the bottle and beer cans can easily be transported to the area. The public had access to that area. The fingerprints on the bottle and can aren't enough to convict Hamilton," said Fred Metos, Hamilton's attorney.
Hamilton's fallback position is that even if he was present when Sant was murdered, the state can't prove that it was he who killed her. "Merely being present when a crime is committed doesn't mean you are guilty of the crime," Metos said. In his brief, Hamilton said Bott "is solely responsible for the crime."
And Bott struck an immunity deal with the state that can't be reversed.
Hamilton also bases his appeal on several procedural errors he believes occurred in his trial.
If the court agrees that the state's evidence was not sufficient to convict Hamilton, he goes free. If the court concurs with Metos arguments about procedural errors, Hamilton wins a third trial.
Hamilton hopes justice will bestow a final miracle.
When police officers told Timothy Singer he had the right to remain silent, they should have let him do just that.
Instead, Singer's attorney will argue that two federal officers who drove Singer from Marion to Salt Lake City in the hour after he shot and killed state officer Fred House persisted in getting information about the shooting from Singer after he said he didn't want to talk about it any more.
When Singer said he didn't want to answer any more questions, one of the officers began talking about how confusing it was to be an out-of-state officer at the Marion siege. He told Singer he didn't understand what the standoff was all about, said Fred Metos, Singer's attorney.
He then asked Singer to tell him about his father and the background to the siege. "That conversation led to topics Tim had said he previously didn't want to talk about: the bombing of the stake center, the 13-day siege and the shootout at the end," Metos said.
Statements Singer made in that conversation were used against him in court.
Simply, Metos believes the federal officers violated the constitutional rights outlined in Miranda v. Arizona and coerced Singer into incriminating himself.
He will also argue that Singer should have been convicted of negligent homicide instead of the more serious crime of manslaughter. In manslaughter, a person must know that his acts put life at risk and disregard that risk, Metos said. In negligent homicide, a person "ought to have been aware" of the risk.
Singer's claim that he shot only at the dogs attacking Addam Swapp and did not see officers hiding beyond the dogs makes it clear he was not aware that his actions risked life, Metos said.
Metos wants the Utah Court of Appeals to give Singer a new trial because his constitutional rights were violated during interrogation or to reduce his conviction to negligent homicide.
Addam Swapp found the accusations brought against him in state court to be as confusing as the noise and lights that bombarded him during the 13-day siege at Marion.
Too confusing, he argues, to adequately defend himself.
Swapp believes the state violated his constitutional right to know the nature of the accusations against him by not providing him with a Bill of Particulars outlining in great detail which of his acts or omissions led to the state's charges against him. Swapp asked for a Bill of Particulars prior to his trial and was denied one.
Instead, the state offered three theories of murder in the death of Fred House and said the actions resulting in that murder occurred during the 13-day siege leading up to the shooting and then named Swapp as one of three defendants in the killing.
"We have a complex problem for the defense," Swapp's brief said. "The prosecution is able to choose which of the hundreds of facts of the 13-day siege it will use to prosecute one or all of the three theories it may choose and which combination of defendants performed which acts of whichever theory," Swapp's appeal said.
Such a prosecution violates Swapp's constitutional right to a "clear statement of the charges against him," the brief said. Swapp wants the Utah Court of Appeals to grant him a new state trial based on more specific charges.
Swapp also wants the court to overturn the 1-to-15 year sentence the state court imposed on him for the murder of House. Swapp has been sentenced to 20 years in a federal prison on federal charges related to the killing. The state ordered his 15-year state sentence to run consecutively to the federal sentence.
However, a Utah law says that when a state sentence runs consecutive with a federal sentence for the same crimes "all sentences could not exceed 30 years" for crimes that did not receive the death penalty. Swapp's two sentences total 35 years. He wants the court to vacate his state sentence on the grounds that it is unlawful and unfair.
Murder on appeal
Steven Ray James
Steven Ray James reported his infant son, Steven Roy James, missing on Aug. 26, 1986, in Logan. He maintained the baby had been kidnapped from his unlocked car while he ran into a Logan drugstore to buy something. Duck hunters found the infant's body three months later, wrapped in a blanket, weighted with rocks and submerged in a marina. A jury found him to life in prison. The Utah Supreme Court will hear James' appeal at 2 p.m. March 4.
John Albert Taylor
Charla King was raped, sodomized and strangled in her Ogden home on the afternoon of June 23, 1987 the day before her 12th birthday. A judge found neighbor John Albert Taylor guilty of first degree murder in the slaying. "A person would hav to think hard to conceive of a more brutal series of criminal acts leading up to the death of a child," said the judge who sentenced Taylor to die by lethal injection. Taylor's appeal will be argued before the Utah Supreme Court Feb. 11 at 9 a.m.
George Wesley Hamilton
Friends urged SUSC student Sharon Sant, 19, not to hitchhike to Fillmore to attend a friend's funeral. But she couldn't find a ride, so she hit I-15 in search of one. Sant disappeared Aug. 1, 1985. Her mutilated body was found in a shallow grave near Cove Fort two weeks later. her head, right hand, left arm, feet, breasts and uterus had been removed. A jury convicted George Wesley Hamilton of second-degree murder in 1986. The Utah Supreme Court ordered a new trial for Hamilton because a juror brought a newspaper article about the murder into the jury room. A second jury convicted him of the same crime in 1989. He is sentenced to five years to life in prison. The Utah Supreme Court will hear Hamilton's appeal Feb. 11 at 10:30 a.m.
Addam Swapp and Timothy Singer
Addam Swapp and Timothy Singer, along with other members of the Singer and Swapp families, held police at bay for 13 days at the Singers' Marion farm in january 1988. The siege began when the clan bombed a Kamas LDS Stake Center jan. 16 and ended Jan. 28 with a shootout between the clan and police. During the exchange, Singer killed Utah State Corrections officer Fred House when House directed his dog to attack Swapp. A jury convicted Singer and Swapp of manslaughter in House's death. Both men will appeal their sentence to the Utah Court of Appeals Feb. 4 at 9 a.m.