The defendant in a capital murder trial on Friday objected vigorously to his attorneys excluding a particular witness the man wanted to have questioned on the witness stand and told the judge his defense team was not doing its job.
Floyd Eugene Maestas, 52, who is charged in connection with the Sept. 28, 2004, slaying of Donna Lou Bott, spoke in open court to 3rd District Judge Paul Maughan after the jury had been sent from the room.
Maestas wanted a prison inmate to take the witness stand, but his defense team decided against having that man testify despite Maestas' objections.
Maestas told the judge that even though he doesn't know the man, he thought the testimony might help his case. He then complained about his legal team.
"I played it with them (his defense team) and now I can't even call my own witnesses. We keep having this discussion: 'Maestas, it's better for you to plead guilty and take life without parole,"' he told the judge, adding that he refused to confess to something he did not do.
Maestas said he would "just as soon kill myself" than admit to a crime he did not commit despite the fact that he is Catholic and does not believe in suicide.
Maughan, however, declined to overrule Maestas' defense team, pointing out that these are well-regarded lawyers who had made a decision as part of an overall legal strategy.
Earlier in the day, Maestas' defense attorneys again hammered at the motives and credibility of two key prosecution witnesses who have testified against Maestas.
William Hugh Irish and Rodney Roy Renzo, both now 22, have pointed the finger at Maestas for the death of Bott, 72, who was beaten, stabbed and strangled to death in her Salt Lake home.
They also testified that Maestas hurt a now-89-year-old woman during a home invasion robbery at her house that same night.
But Troy Archuletta, who currently is in the Salt Lake County Jail, testified Friday that Irish told him that Irish had "made a statement I shouldn't have made" and asked about reversing what he had done.
Irish said they framed Maestas because he has a long prison history, Archuletta testified. Archuletta also said that Irish announced he thought he might be going to prison and Archuletta indicated Irish was worried about being labeled a snitch.
Meanwhile, prosecutor Kent Morgan questioned Archuletta's truthfulness, asking if he knew the penalty for perjury, and whether he was lying for Maestas, whom Archuletta recently met in passing while in jail. Archuletta denied the accusations.
Archuletta, who admitted he has been in and out of prison most of his life, has a criminal history that includes attempted aggravated sexual abuse of a child, aggravated burglary and giving false information to a police officer.
Another defense witness, Peter Rosenberg, who also is in jail, said he spent 60 to 90 minutes in the same cell with Irish.
"He told me they brought him over because he got into a fight." Defense attorney Michael Misner asked what caused the fight.
"He (Irish) said he hated (racial expletive)," Archuletta said.
Irish testified he recently got a swastika tattooed on his face to link up with a white gang for protection.
A prosecution witness, Robert Stevens, a former fingerprint examiner with the Utah State Crime Lab and now a forensic scientist in Virginia, described taking fingerprints from the Bott home. He was questioned by defense attorney Michael Sikora about the fact that is possible to make serious errors in fingerprint identification, which Stevens conceded. However, Stevens said he followed all proper procedures at the Bott home.
He said he found Maestas' fingerprints on the inside of a window on the back door of Bott's house and found Irish's prints on the same door.Closing arguments are scheduled Tuesday, when the case is expected to go to the jury.