Defense attorney will focus on mitigating factors in effort to spare murderer the death penalty

Posted at 6:13 PM, Mar 20, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-20 23:57:18-04

OGDEN, Utah -- After a jury found him guilty for a second time Wednesday for the 1985 murder of Ogden woman Joyce Yost. Douglas Lovell's life is in the hands of those same jurors.

Douglas Lovell has been convicted for the 1985 murder twice now. First back in 1993 and again on Wednesday.

"He has defined himself as a burglar,” said Jeffrey Thomson, a deputy Weber County Attorney. “He's a convicted burglar. He's a convicted robber. He's a convicted kidnapper. He's a convicted rapist, and he's a convicted murderer.”

In the prosecution’s opening statement during the sentencing phase, they quoted Lovell from a confession to his ex-wife in which he admitted he knew what he had done was punishable by death.

Thomson said, quoting Lovell: "’Capital murder is the worst thing you can do, probably the death penalty. I committed a first-degree felony to cover up another felony, it's the death penalty.’ Those words, all of those words, were his words.”

Lovell pleaded guilty to killing Yost back in 1985, saying he did so to keep her from testifying that he had kidnapped and raped her. Lovell's 1993 plea was part of a deal to keep him off death row, on the condition he led police to Yost's body.

But Yost's body was never found, and a judge sentenced Lovell to die by lethal injection.

In 2011, the Utah Supreme Court overturned the conviction. But his defense has never challenged his guilt.

"Nothing that we present to you is intended to be a smoking gun,” Defense Attorney Michael Bouwhuis said. “You aren’t going to hear anything that's going to make you say, ‘I get it. I understand why he raped and murdered this woman.’ You're not gonna hear anything like that.”

Instead, in the sentencing phase, the defense said they plan to focus on mitigating factors like Lovell’s family history and good behavior in prison.

"It’s intended to provide you with a reason not to kill him,” Bouwhuis said.

Greg Roberts, the son of Yost, was the first witness called to testify Friday.

He said, “I’m haunted by a lot of guilt for leaving her unprotected.”

Roberts was away at college in Virginia in 1985 when his mother, who was just 39 at the time, was murdered.

The last time a death sentence was imposed in Utah was in 2008. The penalty phase of the trial will resume Monday.