The Utah Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for a man sentenced to a minimum of 10 years to life for the 1983 kidnapping of an 8-year-old Sandy girl.
In an opinion dated June 24, the high court found that the jury in the district court trial of Thomas Adison Shickles should have been told what the consequences of the possible verdicts were.The justices sent the case back to the 3rd District Court, where it was originally tried. Shickles will remain incarcerated pending the new trial, which has not yet been scheduled.
Shickles was convicted of child kidnapping for taking the girl to Denver. Shickles was acquainted with her family through a Kearns roller skating club and had been allowed to take the victim and her two sisters to various places.
On June 4, 1983, he had been asked by the victim's mother to take the girls to a babysitter's house. Shickles dropped off two of the girls at the house but took the victim with him to Denver by plane.
The pair spent the night in a Denver motel, according to the opinion, before Shickles called her parents, who notified police. He was arrested that evening by the FBI.
Shickles claimed he was not guilty of the crime by reason of insanity. The jury found him guilty and mentally ill, after two comments the justices labeled "misstatements" by a former Salt Lake County prosecutor during closing arguments.
According to the opinion, the prosecutor told the jury that if Shickles were found not guilty by reason of insanity, he "walks out the door" and the court would lose jurisdiction over him.
However, defendants found not guilty by reason of insanity are required to be subjected to a hearing to determine if they are presently mentally ill. If so, the court can send them to the Utah State Hospital until it is determined they have recovered.
The opinion pointed out that Shickles' attorney objected to both statements, but that the "court did nothing to correct either" and denied the defense attorney's motion for a mistrial.
"Shickles had the right to have the jury rule squarely and knowledgeably on his defense," the high court determined and sent the case back to district court for a new trial.
The 19-page opinion also included rulings on other issues raised by the defense, including the claim that the court abused its discretion in sentencing Shickles to a minimum of 10 years to life.
The opinion said the state offered no evidence of aggravation, while Shickles' mother testified that he was raised in a broken home, received counseling and was twice-divorced.
Experts for the defense had also testified that Shickles suffered from a multiple personality disorder at the time of the incident.
Although the high court found that the imposition of a 10-year minimum term was not an abuse, the trial court should have stated the reasons for the sentence.