The Justice Files: Justice on hold again

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OGDEN, Utah (ABC4 Utah) – Doug Lovell is hoping a third chance will result in his life being spared.

Twice, Lovell was sentenced to die. And on both occasions appeals have kept him alive.

He was charged with the 1985 rape and murder of Joyce Yost of South Ogden. He was first convicted and sentenced to die in 1993. An appeal ended in his favor and a new trial was ordered.

In 2015, he again was convicted and sentenced to die. But the Utah Supreme Court ruled there was evidence Lovell’s attorney was ineffective during the penalty phase and ordered a hearing on that issue.

Monday, Lovell was back in court with different attorneys who called on witnesses who never testified on his behalf. His attorneys claimed if those witnesses had been called in 2015 they may have convinced the jury to spare his life.

One of Lovell’s witnesses was Russell Minas. He is an attorney who helped Lovell with a custodial issue years ago.

He said Lovell’s attorney Sean Young did inquire about his availability to testify during the penalty phase. Minas said Young never called back.

“Nobody asked me to testify,” said Minas.

In 2018, Young lost his license to practice law for three years by the Utah State Bar.

Minas said they have maintained a relationship even while Lovell has been in prison for nearly three decades.

“I liked him,” said Minas. “I was surprised. He was warm and engaging and it was just a different experience for me.”

Minas said he has visited him a handful of times but most of their conversations are phone calls. He said Lovell is a changed man and is unlikely to re-offend.

“He’s expressed to me, remorse,” said Minas.

Minas said Lovell’s life should be spared and a life with a chance at parole is appropriate.

But prosecutors from the Utah Attorney General’s Office doubted Lovell has changed. Mark Field also wondered if Minas truly knew about the crime.

He asked Minas if during their conversation whether Lovell ever shared details of her rape and murder. Minas said no.

Fields: “He reached in and grabbed her by the neck. Did he tell you that?”
Minas: “No.”
Fields: “He told her he was going to kill her. Did he tell you that.?”
Minas: “No.”

Fields: “He said he was going to rip her throat out if she didn’t keep quiet. Did he tell you that?”
Minas: “No.”

Greg Yost is the son of Joyce Yost. He is monitoring these recent hearings and has grown frustrated with the judicial system.

“I am for the death penalty,” he said. “(But) it takes so many appeals to get there. It this were Oklahoma or Texas it would be over. But I do appreciate what Utah and its attorneys have been doing. It’s amazing. It’s just so hard to deal with.”

He said it appears Lovell is playing the system to its fullest and doesn’t want to be put to death.

“He bought three plus years with these latest delays,” Yost said.

Lovell was facing charges of raping Joyce Yost in 1985. But she disappeared after testifying against Lovell at a preliminary hearing. For years, prosecutors did not have evidence to link him with Yost’s murder. In 1991, his wife agreed to wear a wire during a prison visit. Lovell admitted to his involvement to his wife. But as part of a plea deal, prosecutors agreed not to pursue the death penalty if Lovell showed them where the body was. They went to the Ogden canyon area along with Lovell but her body could not be found.

“If there is some way to reach out to him to get her remains so that we could have closure,” Yost said. “But I don’t think he has an incentive to do that. That is my hope, to get her remains back.”

The hearing will last several weeks and the judge will then forward his ruling to the Utah Supreme Court. It will be up to the state’s highest court to decide if Lovell death sentence in 2015 was justified or not.

If not, the court could order a new trial for the penalty phase of his conviction.

It the court rules it was justified, the death penalty will be carried out. But Lovell could begin a new round of appeals based on the death penalty.

The hearing will last several weeks and the judge will then forward his ruling to the Utah Supreme Court. It will be up to the state’s highest court to decide if Lovell death sentence in 2015 was justified or not.

If not, the court could order a new trial for the penalty phase of his conviction.

It the court rules it was justified, the death penalty will be carried out. But Lovell could begin a new round of appeals based on the death penalty.

Lovell is 61 years old and has been in prison since his conviction in 1993.

MORE THE JUSTICE FILES

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