The Utah Supreme Court will hear arguments June 8 on behalf of murder suspect Steven Ray James, who claims first-degree murder charge against him are unconstitutional, his defense attorney says.
Lawyer Robert Gutke contends state statutes allowing a murder charge to be raised to a first-degree status because of the aggravating circumstance of a prior conviction are unconstitutional.Authorities have said James, 36, a former Preston, Idaho, resident, was convicted in California 15 years ago of kidnapping a woman at gunpoint.
In addition to dismissing Gutke's argument, 1st District Judge VeNoy Christensen last year rejected a motion to move James' trial out of the county because of claims of extensive prejudicial pretrial publicity.
James is charged with the October 1986 slaying of his 3-month-old son. The infant's body was found Oct. 11 wrapped in a blanket and weighted with rocks in a marsh near the Bear River.
The father told police the infant was abducted from his pickup truck parked outside a Logan pharmacy. Unable to raise $75,000 bail, James has been incarcerated in the Cache County Jail since his arrest 20 months ago.