Mark Hopkinson, who has spent nearly as much time on death row in Wyoming as Ted Bundy faced execution in Florida, has won a battle in his fight to gain access to grand jury records in his case.
The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer to review the grand jury transcripts to determine what, if anything, Hopkinson and his lawyers should be allowed to see.However, the appeals court, in an order issued Monday, affirmed Hopkinson's first-degree murder conviction.
Hopkinson was sentenced to death in 1979 for ordering the torture-murder of Jeffrey Green earlier that year. Green was a former associate of Hopkinson's.
The victim's mutilated body was found at an I-80 rest area near Fort Bridger a few days before he was scheduled to testify before a Uinta County grand jury investigating the 1977 bombing deaths of Evanston lawyer Vincent Vehar, his wife and one of his two sons.
Hopkinson also was convicted of first-degree murder in the Vehar deaths and was sentenced to three consecutive life terms.
The appeals court also stayed Hopkinson's death warrant until further order.
The two men Hopkinson is believed to have hired to kill Green have never been named or arrested. Hopkinson's attorneys have argued the prosecution cannot establish a link between them and Hopkinson, who was serving time in a federal prison in Lompoc, Calif., on his conviction of hiring Green to put a bomb in the mailbox of an Arizona attorney.
His lawyers have repeatedly sought access to the grand jury transcripts, arguing they could reveal the identities of Green's killers and the lack of any links between them and Hopkinson.
The appeals court ordered the case remanded to the district court, "which is directed to itself examine . . . the grand jury testimony and to make such further order with respect to its finding on that matter as justice requires."
In Rock Springs, Wyo., a state judge said he expects to issue a ruling later this week on defense motions to dismiss charges against two Utah men accused of aiding Hopkinson in arranging the Green murder.
Judge Kenneth Hamm said he is reviewing and revising his opinion on the motions submitted by attorneys for Alvin Russell III, 36, and Todd Hall, 46, both of Salt Lake City.
Russell and Hall are accused of providing the getaway vehicles used by the two men who killed Green. They were bound over to district court on charges of conspiracy and aiding and abetting first-degree murder.
Similar charges against a third Utah man, Jeff Dunn, 36, Park City, were dismissed during a preliminary hearing last February.
Attorneys for Russell and Hall have argued the charges also should be dismissed, claiming they were given immunity for testimony they gave previously in Hopkinson's case.
The charges against Russell and Hall were filed in June 1987, when a new federal law gave Uinta County prosecutors access to federal grand jury records in the case.