SALT LAKE CITY — The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver has reversed a lower court's decision to overturn the death sentence of a Utah man.
In an opinion handed down on Friday, a three-judge panel reinstated the death penalty conviction for Von Lester Taylor.
"Mr. Taylor does not deny he actively participated in the murders. To answer the question of whether he can be actually innocent of the crime: He cannot. Mr. Taylor 'is not innocent, in any sense of the word,'" Judge Timothy Tymkovitch wrote.
Taylor tried to argue ineffective assistance of counsel when he pleaded guilty to capital murder charges. A federal judge in Salt Lake City vacated his death sentence. The 10th Circuit overruled that decision, putting him back on death row.
Taylor and Edward Deli were convicted in the 1990 killings of Kaye Tiede and her mother, Beth Potts, at a Summit County cabin. The men kidnapped Linae and Tricia Tiede and shot their father, Rolf. They set the cabin on fire and fled. After a high-speed chase, both men were arrested. Taylor was convicted and sentenced to death. Deli got life in prison.
But Taylor has tried to contend he didn't fire the fatal shots. In Friday's ruling, Judge Mary Beck Briscoe said it didn't matter because Utah law does not differentiate between accomplices to a crime.
"Even accepting the premise of Taylor’s new forensic evidence as correct, i.e., that the fatal shots to the victims were caused by the .44 caliber handgun and that it was Deli who fired those shots, and in turn accepting that it is more likely than not that no reasonable juror would have convicted Taylor under a principal theory of criminal liability, the evidence nevertheless quite clearly establishes Taylor’s guilt as an accomplice because Taylor both (a) intended for the victims to be killed or knew that the victims would die as a result of his and Deli’s actions and (b) encouraged and/or intentionally aided Deli in the conduct that constituted the offense of aggravated murder," she wrote.
Taylor has been sentenced to die by lethal injection. However, because Utah's Department of Corrections does not currently have the necessary chemicals to carry out such an execution, he would be executed by firing squad under the law.
Read the ruling here: