It's going to be two more months before convicted murderer George Wesley Hamilton knows whether his case - dubbed "the murder trial that wouldn't die" by Millard County Attorney Warren Peterson - will be retried.
An evidentiary hearing Thursday, in which the eight jurors who convicted Hamilton were questioned individually regarding alleged jury misconduct, was continued to Nov. 4 for oral arguments. One of the jurors was interviewed by phone from Canada.The hearing Thursday was behind closed doors before 4th District Judge George E. Ballif, who presided over Hamilton's second-degree murder trial in August 1987.
Hamilton was convicted of the mutilation murder Aug. 1, 1985, of 19-year-old Sharon Sant of Fillmore. He is serving five years to life in the Utah State Prison.
The Utah Supreme Court in June ordered Ballif to determine whether Hamilton deserves a new trial on grounds that a juror brought two newspapers articles about the case into jury deliberations.
The evidentiary hearings are to determine whether the newspaper articles prejudiced the jurors' decision to convict Hamilton. Hamilton's defense counsel, Salt Lake attorney Ron Yengich, said the hearing was held behind closed doors "to prohibit undue influence on jurors and to protect their privacy."
Yengich, co-counsel Fred Metos, Peterson and assistant Utah Attorney General John Soltis remained tight-lipped about the content of the articles, which may have dealt with Robert Bott, a second suspect in Sant's murder.
Murder charges against Bott were dropped for lack of evidence. But after believing he had been granted immunity from prosecution, Bott retracted earlier denials and confessed to sexually abusing Sant and mutilating her body.
Following Thursday's hearing, Ballif said the fact that newspaper articles were brought into the jury room is less important than "as to what went on in deliberations."
Yengich has argued that the mere presence of extraneous materials in the jury room constitutes basis for a new trial.