A jury deliberated five hours late Tuesday before returning guilty verdicts on both counts in the murder trial of Parley Jeffs Dutson.
Made up of six women and two men, the jury returned at 9:15 p.m., with one female juror who walked in sobbing audibly and wiping her eyes. Another woman covered her mouth when the verdict was read.
Dutson, 19, was charged with first-degree felony murder and aggravated sexual assault in 3rd District Court stemming from the April 7, 2007 death of Kara Hopkins.
The jury found him guilty of both offenses and Judge Royal Hansen set a tentative sentencing date of Aug. 22. Prior to that, officials will conduct a pre-sentence investigation to determine sentencing recommendations.
The murder charge carries a potential sentence of 15 years to life. The judge could impose a sentence ranging from 6, 10 years or 15 years to life on the aggravated sexual assault conviction.
Hopkins' family wept when the verdict was read, while Dutson showed no emotion, whispering something to his brother at the conclusion of the day's proceedings.
Prosecutors said Dutson gunned down his girlfriend after she refused his sexual advances during a night of partying.
The two had been a couple off and on for two years and Hopkins was killed at a West Jordan apartment Dutson shared with two other young men.
Prosecutors said eyewitnesses to the shooting reported that Dutson had tried to rip Hopkins' clothes off at the party, demanded in vulgar terms that she have sex with him on the spot and then grew angry with her when she resisted. She was shot in the back of the head and witnesses reported that Jeffs was chanting as he knelt by her nearly nude body.
The defense has argued that Dutson grew up in the Fundamentalist LDS Church town of Colorado City, left home at age 16, faced some hard times and wound up drinking and doing drugs.
On the night of the slaying, Dutson, a former "Lost Boy," had consumed alcohol, and a concoction of tea brewed with psychedelic mushrooms.
In testimony earlier today, forensic scientist Stephen Golding testified about the effects of psilocybin-bearing mushrooms, which can impair judgment, behavior, speech and coordination.
Golding said one of his clients in private practice got high on the drug about six months ago and jumped off the roof of a building, suffering several broken bones because the man thought he could fly. He was not trying to commit suicide, Golding said, but really did think he could fly because of the drug's effects.
Glen Hanson, professor in the University of Utah's Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, testified as a prosecution witness and stated that psilocybin is a less potent hallucingen than LSD.
Both Golding and Hanson agreed that psilocybin is not generally associated with violent behavior. Golding testified that psilocybin is typically not used to enhance sexual experiences, but Hanson said there are examples of people using it to heighten sensory experiences.
Defense attorney Brian Gardner told jurors they need to understand the full context of what happened that fatal night. Gardner said there was no evidence Dutson did what he did so he could commit rape. Gardner said Dutson was so high he had reached an obvious "hallucinatory paranoid and irrational" level of fear.
The victim's death was horrible and tragic, according to Gardner, but Dutson did not intend to kill her. He urged the jury not to convict Dutson of murder and aggravated sexual assault, but instead find him guilty of the lesser charges of manslaughter and sexual battery.
Prosecutor Kimberley McKinnon Crandall strongly disagreed, noting that Dutson was demanding sex from his girlfriend in front of other people and playing a game with the gun, pointing it at her and then putting it down as she repeatedly ducked behind people to get out of his line of fire.
Even after he shot her, he almost completely undressed her and took off most of his own clothes, Crandall said, reminding the jurors of earlier testimony.
"We all make choices in life," Crandall said. Dutson, she said, chose to do drugs, pulled out a loaded gun, aimed at his girlfriend and then pulled the trigger."This case is about the fact that Kara is dead and it is because of the actions of the defendant," she said, showing a framed photograph of the girl to the jurors.
E-mail: [email protected]