The Justice Files: The waiting game

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PROVO, Utah (ABC4 Utah) – With no trial date in sight, families of murder victims are growing frustrated with the judicial system.

Last week, a Utah County judge granted a two-month delay to hear a motion in the murder trial of Jerrod Baum.  He is facing murder charges for the deaths of Breylynne “Breezy” Otteson and Riley Powell.

In 2018, their bodies were found in an abandoned mine near Eureka.  Baum could be facing the death penalty if he’s found guilty, but no trial date has been set. Instead the families of Otteson and Powell continue to watch from the sidelines as motion after motion is filed and keeping the case bogged down.

“It’s a strain because all we want is to seek justice,” said Amanda Hunt, Breezy’s aunt.  “We feel like it’s inundated with extensions and it needs to go on longer right? We just want to go to trial.”

Over the past year the delays have mostly been at the request of Baum’s defense attorney.  The latest motion is to seek health records of Morgan Henderson, Baum’s girlfriend.  She pleaded guilty to several counts of obstruction of justice.  Henderson plans to testify that she saw Baum murder the teens.

There’s already been a delay when the defense asked the court to find the Utah County attorney in contempt for violating a gag order.

The latest motion to cause a delay was filed last week by the Utah County attorney who is asking for the removal of the defense attorney.

“I didn’t expect it to take three years before trial,” Hunt said.  “We were thinking along the lines of two.  Now we’re past that two year mark and I don’t know when we go to trial.”

An attorney who represents victims of crime says two years is the typical wait time for a trial.
Brandon Merrill with Utah Homicide Survivors said the delays in the Baum case are rare.

“It is definitely something that can often make the victims feel hurt and unheard,” said Merrill.  “Because they want to make sure that justice for their family members is being done and being done quickly.” 

Merrill recommends families seek a crime victims rights attorney to help guide them through the process. Under the law, the state will provide a crime victims attorney.

Hunt and Powell do have one but she still feels left out. 

“It’s hard,” Hunt said.  “It’s hard to keep going.  Fortunately we have a community to help us get through this.”

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