The attorney for a man convicted of clubbing a bar patron to death in 1987 told the Utah Supreme Court on Tuesday the trial judge erred in refusing to dismiss a juror who believed the defendant should have to prove his innocence.
Defense attorney Deidre Gorman told the five-member panel that 2nd District Judge David Roth erred on four separate issues during the August 1987 trial of Stanley Gotschall, 59.Gotschall was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of Don Miller, 30, after the victim had interceded in another fight started by Gotschall.
Gorman argued that Roth erred when he did not "excuse for cause" a juror who said he felt the defense had a responsibility to demonstrate the innocence of the defendant.
"The juror had no concept of the fact that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty," Gorman told the justices.
Gorman also argued that Roth's jury instructions lacked the option of conviction on a lesser offense.
"The trial court erred by refusing to instruct the jury on the lesser-included offense of negligent homicide," Gorman wrote in her appeal.
She also contended the trial court "abused its discretion by allowing the defendants' prior bad acts into evidence."
According to Gorman, the final trial error involved the judge allowing the state to bring in "evidence of character before the defense had used character evidence to show self-defense."
The Supreme Court took the case under advisement, but did not indicate when it would rule.