PROVO Two men charged with killing Kiplyn Davis cannot get fair trials together, a 4th District judge ruled Wednesday, so they will have separate trials.
Timmy Brent Olsen and Christopher Jeppson are both charged with murder in the death of 15-year-old Davis, who disappeared May 2, 1995, from Spanish Fork High School.
Judge Lynn Davis has already acknowledged the difference in the men's alleged levels of culpability but ruled Wednesday that trying them together could violate both their rights.
"Mr. Jeppson may be highly prejudiced by the accumulated evidence against Mr. Olsen," Davis wrote in the ruling. "The prejudice is more than a mere possibility."
Utah code allows for defendants to have separate trials if they would be prejudiced by being tried together.
As well as the extra evidence against Olsen, Davis cited several other reasons why a severance would be necessary despite the Utah County attorney's request to keep the cases together.
Jeppson has waived his right to a speedy trial, while Olsen wants a quick trial.
If Davis delayed the trial for Jeppson, Olsen "may be prejudiced and his constitutional right to a speedy trial" affected, according to the ruling.
However, if Davis rushed ahead with a trial date to appease Olsen, Jeppson may be "prejudiced in his lack of preparation," due to the voluminous nature of evidence and federal court transcripts, Davis ruled.
So, resolving all doubts in favor of a severance, as required by law, there will now be two trials.
Calls to Olsen's and Jeppson's attorneys for comment were not immediately returned.
Prosecutor Mariane O'Bryant said she wasn't surprised by the ruling, but it's still tough.
"There's nothing about this case that has been easy," O'Bryant said. "It certainly is more of a strain, particularly on the family to do this twice instead of once. (But) if we have to do two trials, we will do two trials."
There's still no word on where the trials will be held, as attorneys for both men have asked for changes of venue due to the massive media attention.
Olsen wants somewhere rural, like Wasatch or Millard counties, while Jeppson has asked for somewhere larger, like Salt Lake County.
The men will be in court again Tuesday to figure out what happens next in the cases.
Olsen and Jeppson have both been sentenced in connection with federal perjury charges. Olsen was sentenced to 12 1/2 years in federal prison and just last week, Jeppson was sentenced to five years plus two years of probation.
The judge's ruling aligns closely with the arguments made by Jeppson's attorney, Scott Williams.
Williams argued that, despite the amicable relationship between the attorneys in the courtroom, Jeppson and Olsen may have "inconsistent defenses."
"Thus, Mr. Jeppson would be prejudiced by the spillover effect of inflammatory evidence against Mr. Olsen," according to the ruling, which quoted Williams.
O'Bryant doesn't believe there is evidence that pits one man against each other, as the statements made have been generic "we did this" or "we did that," never, "Christopher and Tim" did something.
Much of the evidence against the men is the same, O'Bryant said. But Olsen told more people than Jeppson that he had killed Kiplyn and buried her body.
At this point, the cases are proceeding without much indication of a plea deal, O'Bryant said.
"I haven't seen any indication of (resolving)," O'Bryant said. "But we're always willing to discuss the possibilities. At this point, it appears as though we're going to trial on both of these."Davis also denied a motion to throw out Olsen's case on a technical detail, as well as a motion from prosecutors to adjust the preliminary hearing record to clarify that an FBI agent did not perjure himself on the stand. Such a clarification would be a "jurisprudential anomaly" resulting in a "jurisprudential nightmare," Davis ruled.
E-mail: [email protected]