Death row inmate loses again in court

Courts • Convicted killer failed to show that counsel in 1985 trial was ineffective, Utah justices rule.
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A death row inmate has lost another appeal in his bid to get his case reheard.

The Utah Supreme Court on Friday said Douglas Stewart Carter had failed to show his counsel at his original trial was "so deficient as to be constitutionally ineffective." The decision upheld a lower court ruling.

The ruling mirrors a decision issued by a federal court judge in September, who also found that Carter had failed to show that state courts erred on questions about the effectiveness of counsel at his 1985 trial and admissibility of his confession. Carter has about a week to file a notice of appeal on the federal ruling with the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Carter was convicted of murdering Eva Olesen in her Provo home on Feb. 27, 1985. Olesen's hands had been tied behind her back with a telephone cord ripped from the wall. She was nude from the waist down and had been stabbed eight times in the back, once in the abdomen and once in the neck with a kitchen knife. A medical examiner said Olesen, 57, was still alive when she was fatally shot in the back of the head.

At his first trial in 1985, a jury unanimously found Carter guilty of first-degree murder and that aggravating circumstances existed, which made him eligible for the death penalty. On Dec. 19, 1985, the jury sentenced Carter to death.

Over the subsequent 27 years, Carter made various appeals to get the verdict and sentence overturned, arguing, among other things, that his confession was coerced and should have been suppressed; that the prosecutor had tainted the jury by indirectly commenting on his decision to not take the witness stand in his own defense; and that his counsel had been ineffective.

The Utah Supreme Court rejected all but one issue raised by Carter — that jury instructions were flawed — and, based on that finding, ordered Carter to be re-sentenced. At that 1992 penalty hearing, a jury again decided Carter should be executed for the crime.