Millard County officials aren't too happy that convicted murderer George Wesley Hamilton could get a second trial, but they may have to raise around $100,000 just the same for Hamilton's defense if a local judge orders he be tried again.
The possibility of a retrial surfaced this week when the Utah Supreme Court ordered 4th District Judge George E. Ballif to hold a hearing on whether Hamilton should get a new trial because of alleged jury misconduct.Hamilton, convicted last August in the mutilation murder of 19-year-old Sharon Sant, is serving five years to life in the Utah State Prison. The case was moved from Millard County to Utah County following a change of venue request by defense attorneys.
"The attorneys will contact me, and when a time is agreed upon we will announce it," Ballif, who presided over the trial, said of the hearing.
In March, Ballif quashed a motion for a new trial on grounds that the Supreme Court had jurisdiction over the case. He said the 4th District Court no longer had jurisdiction because Hamilton had filed an appeal of his conviction with the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court, however, ordered the 4th District Court to hold a hearing once the Utah attorney general's office agreed to a defense motion for the hearing.
Deputy Millard County Attorney Dexter Anderson said county officials hope Hamilton won't get another trial but are anticipating preparations just in case.
"We'd be discouraged, I guess," said Anderson of having to try Hamilton again. "We get discouraged in this business just like in any other business. But we'll just gird up our loins and do it again, and do it better."
Millard County Auditor John Hansen said the county spent about $200,000 for Hamilton's trial. With a budget of $6 million, he said, the cost of another trial would be another significant blow to county coffers.
The cost of Hamilton's defense alone totaled about $105,000, Hansen said.
"We wouldn't have to start from scratch," Anderson said, because evidence gathered and detective work needed for the first trial would not have to be duplicated for a second trial. But the cost of Hamilton's defense likely would be just as expensive as it was for the first trial, Hansen said.