A defense attorney presented information Tuesday that implied the Christmastime slayings of a Murray woman and her mother may have been premeditated.
While unsuccessfully arguing that Von L. Taylor and Edward S. Deli should be tried separately on capital murder charges, Martin Gravis, Deli's attorney, mentioned a "hearsay statement" that indicated the shooting deaths of Kay Tiede, 49, and her blind mother, Beth Potts, 76, may have been planned.Gravis said the statement - apparently made by his client - was that Taylor telephoned from Tiede's Summit County cabin and allegedly spoke with someone at a prison halfway house, presumably the Orange Street Community Corrections Center in Salt Lake City, a facility he and Deli had walked away from on Dec. 14.
He allegedly told the person at the halfway house that he was planning on burglarizing some cabins and would then wait for someone to show up, kill them and then take their car, Gravis said.
The attorney argued that Deli should receive a separate trial because the implied premeditation could prejudice the jury if the suspects were tried together. "That could inflame the jury to such an extent that it would be impossible to get a fair trial," he said.
But despite his arguments and those from Taylor's attorney, Elliott Levine, 3rd District Judge Frank Noel ruled that the suspects will stand trial together. He also denied a motion to move the trial from Summit County.Levine argued that the media has portrayed Deli, 22, as taking a "lighthearted or joking" attitude during court proceedings - particularly that Deli seemed pleased when reporters told him the case had caught the attention of the national news media. And Levine said he has observed Deli become agitated and irate during court proceedings while Taylor, 25, has remained "neutral and somber."
"I definitely know that the jury is going to take the actions and attitudes of one as belonging to the other," he said. "I would not want that (portrayal) spilling over to Mr. Taylor."
The judge said he could not rule on something that might happen in the future. "It would be speculation to say how these defendants might conduct themselves before a jury," Noel said.
Summit County Attorney Robert Adkins successfully argued that the defendants should be tried together because they committed the crimes together.
He said both were armed when Linae Tiede walked in on them in her father's Oakley cabin on Dec. 22. Both were present moments later when her mother and grandmother were shot to death and both later reloaded their weapons "indicating involvement in the shootings."
Adkins said both men were also involved in the aggravated robbery of Rolf Tiede and both were armed when Rolf Tiede was shot in the face, his cabin set on fire and his two daughters kidnapped.
Gravis argued, however, that there was no evidence Deli fired any shots. "There are lots of explanations why Mr. Deli's gun needed to be loaded other than firing at the victims," he said, explaining that many bullets had been fired throughout the cabin, including some inside rooms where none of the victims were located.
The defense attorneys also argued that their clients could not receive a fair trial in Coalville because of excess publicity and asked that the trial be moved to Salt Lake City.
"In larger areas, the crimes aren't taken so personally . . . and don't create public feelings of outrage" as they do in small communities, Gravis said.
Levine argued that the media gave an "undue amount of focus" to the homicides and said it would be difficult to find jury members who haven't already reached a verdict. "These two have been tried and convicted on TV," he said.
But Deputy County Attorney Terry Christiansen said juries have been impaneled successfully in numerous other high-profile murder cases in Summit County without any problems. He said the publicity from the case received more attention in the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune than in any Summit County newspaper, which potential jury members in the area are more likely to read.
Noel said the case has not received undue publicity and said he believes the defendants will be able to obtain a fair and impartial jury in Coalville.
Both defendants pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to two counts each of capital homicide and a list of other felonies. Psychological evaluations were ordered, but only one doctor had completed them as of Tuesday. Trial is set for March 19 but may have to be postponed unless the evaluations are completed soon.